You might recall several weeks ago when First Look Media, owned by Pierre Omidyar with Glenn Greenwald as his premiere talent, announced $550,000 in grants given to three organizations, two with which Greenwald has maintained a personal association. The most striking aspect of the grant announcement was that approximately 65 percent of the grant money, $350,000, was given to the Freedom of the Press Foundation, whose board members include Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden.
Simply put, a company, whose flagship site is run by Greenwald, granted $350,000 — the bulk of the available grant money — to a nonprofit where Greenwald sits on the board.
The nepotism grew thicker this week when the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted a lengthy, glowing review of Glenn Greenwald’s new book, No Place to Hide. To the EFF’s credit, the review disclosed that Greenwald received a journalism award from EFF last year, and that a portion of the proceeds from Greenwald’s book sales will be donated to the EFF.
But what the review totally failed to disclose was that the EFF received a $100,000 grant from First Look just three weeks ago. You’d think an organization that’s dedicated to transparency would’ve disclosed such a thing. But what we’ve observed recently is quite a bit of opaqueness from Greenwald and others regarding how they do business.
On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be illegal, but it certainly exposes potential insider favoritism. The success or failure of First Look Media depends greatly upon Greenwald and Snowden, as reporter and source for the tent-pole website and its NSA reporting — the sole traffic draw to First Look’s flagship site. Yankee Stadium was regarded as the “House that Ruth Built,” likewise First Look is built almost exclusively upon Greenwald and Snowden, therefore it has a special interest in not only catering to and supporting Greenwald’s associates, but also to simply keep happy the notoriously persnickety Greenwald.
Ultimately, the EFF has a responsibility to its readers and supporters to disclose its financial ties to First Look. After all, sunlight shined upon these kinds of relationships would otherwise be demanded by Greenwald and others in similar cases involving mainstream news organizations or even political/corporate/lobbyist ties.
UPDATE: Via “gorilla cookies” in the comments, here’s Greenwald’s view on disclosures:
“Readers are entitled to know of any relationship between the writer and the subject which would lead a reasonable person to question the objectivity of the writer. If there is a relationship between the writer and the subject which has a substantial potential to influence the writer’s opinions, the reader is entitled to know, and concealing such relationships is misleading and irresponsible.”