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Glenn Greenwald on Deserving an Audience and His Funder’s Beneficence

Posted on Aug 4, 2014

    Glenn Greenwald at a civil liberty conference in Tucson, Ariz., in 2012. Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From his jungle abode overrun with animals high above Rio de Janeiro, crusading journalist Glenn Greenwald spoke with New York Times columnist David Carr about experimenting with his new reporting enterprise, public distrust of its money-soaked patron and the need for strong points of view in the news.

In the prickly manner characteristic of his public persona—or so the quotation in Carr’s article reads—Greenwald disputed growing concerns that Pierre Omidyar, the financier of First Look Media, the investigative news organ Greenwald co-founded, should be regarded with suspicion as an emerging influence in public affairs.

“There’s a lot of distrust of billionaires and the oligarchic model,” Greenwald told Carr. “People don’t believe that you’re really going to get to be journalistically independent. But you can’t complain that there’s not serious investigative journalism against big corporate and governmental outlets and then at the same time oppose every single model that lets you have the kind of funding that you need.”

Greenwald’s response does not dispel apprehension about the intentions of his benefactor, but rather instructs audiences that “the oligarchic model” of journalism is the best model available to society at present.

He added that while he doesn’t “think there is going to be one model,” certainly “No one, not The New York Times… is entitled to an audience. … The ability to thrive is directly dependent upon your ability to convince people that you’re providing something valuable and unique.”

That’s how Greenwald transitioned from lawyer to informed commenter on political events during the George W. Bush years. “I began by writing 4,000-word posts about very arcane, complicated issues at a time when you were supposed to post two paragraphs,” he told Carr. “That was supposed to drive everybody away, but my audience just kept growing and growing. It worked because there was a passion and a conviction to it that is often missing in mainstream coverage.”

Read more of Carr’s encounter with Greenwald, including evocative descriptions of the sporadically supplied jungle getaway where the reporter lives and works, here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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