From the beginning, several of us here at The Daily Banter have questioned not only the editorial approach of First Look Media's The Intercept, but primarily the veracity of its journalism. To be perfectly clear: the agenda of the principal writers for The Intercept make it impossible for its articles to be completely accurate and truthful. We also predicted that its de-centralized editorial structure would end in disaster.
If journalist Ken Silverstein's tell-all article published today in Politico Magazine is to be believed, both of these predictions have come to fruition.
Silverstein is a seasoned, hard-core journalist who was originally hired by First Look to be a reporter for Matt Taibbi's ill-fated Racket website. But as he wrote in Politico, everything went straight to hell. The founder and financier of First Look, Pierre Omidyar, became more interested in talking about journalism and press freedom than actually allowing real journalism to take place. Silverstein wrote that several of his stories died-on-the-vine or were scooped by other publications while they waited to be published; the process of being reimbursed for expenses was a nightmare; and very little actual journalism made it through the First Look gauntlet.
Finally, Racket was shut down after spending millions of dollars and not publishing a damn thing. Silverstein subsequently made the transition over to The Intercept where many of the same problems existed as well.
But the most eye-opening section of Silverstein's article is the third and final page where he discusses a series of articles he published with co-author Natasha Vargas-Cooper about NPR's Serial podcast, which told the story of the murder trial of Adnan Syed who was eventually convicted in the strangling death of Hae Min Lee.
Silverstein and Vargas-Cooper conducted exhaustive research and interviews, and concluded that the prosecution was on-the-level and that Syed was rightfully convicted. He did it. This conclusion, of course, was unacceptable to the principals at The Intercept who perceived the articles as having sided with "The Man," even though that's not what the duo had done. They were merely reporting the facts of the case, which led them to an objective conclusion.
At one point, Jeremy Scahill was so outraged by the articles that he apparently threatened to quit.
Jeremy even threatened to quit over the second installment, according to two of my colleagues who witnessed what they described as his “temper tantrum” in the New York office. He told them he couldn’t believe that we’d so uncritically accepted the state’s view of the murder—even though our stories were backed up by our own research, our unique reporting and our reading of court documents. One day at the office, frustrated, Natasha wrote “Team Adnan” on a sign on Jeremy’s office door.
Yes, Scahill threatened to quit because the Serial reporting didn't reflect The Intercept's agenda, nor did it reflect the podcast's central point that Syed's trial was unfair.
And even though both Glenn and Jeremy aren’t technically editors, they reviewed the second article in advance of publication. I asked them by email to cease and told them it was inappropriate for them to review our work—-we answered only to our editors, not to them.
Silverstein claims that Greenwald and Scahill are less interested in accuracy and more interested in making sure the articles in The Intercept reflect their brand and their agenda -- even if it means objecting to the conclusions of the Serial matter.
By the way, you might remember Natasha Vargas-Cooper as the author of a totally hagiographical profile of Greenwald and his husband, David Miranda, published in Buzzfeed. That was Vargas-Cooper's article. After concluding The Intercept's coverage of Serial, however, Vargas-Cooper, a former Greenwald sycophant, quit her job at The Intercept.
As if the Serial fracas wasn't damning enough, when Silverstein quit, he was asked to return to The Intercept his company laptop. Evidently and with significant irony, according to Silverstein, The Intercept wanted to snoop around and see what was on it -- presumably company secrets, memos and emails. Instead of returning the laptop, Silverstein asked that the accounting department merely deduct the value of the laptop from the expense reimbursements owed to him. He didn't say whether The Intercept accepted his offer.
None of this would be as believable in a vaccuum, but given what we already know about The Intercept and its founding writers, Silverstein's story makes complete sense. And from this point forward, no one with a critical mind should take seriously The Intercept's reporting. How many articles were deliberately spun to conform to the Greenwald/Scahill/Omidyar agenda? How many articles were killed because the facts ran contrary to the agenda? Now, couple all of this growing dubiousness and obvious incompetence with the fact that The Intercept possesses tens of thousands if not millions of top secret national security documents from Ed Snowden.