Pierre Omidyar

As you may or may not have known if you’re not a press watcher, the most exciting story in the world over the last year or so is the Edward Snowden story. Those stories were published by the US Guardian (important because we have a first amendment here…) and written by Glenn Greenwald. The stories are spectacular and stunning in their scope and even feature exotic locations like Hong Kong, Hawaii and the Soviet Union. Should make for a smashing film. What it may also have sparked is the creation of a brand new and much needed adversarial American Press. Ebay/Paypal billionaire Pierre Omidyar and the Guardian Journalist Glenn Greenwald are trying to create a new kind of press even as we speak. And it’s real money. A talked about $250 million dollars. Real money.

As people like to spend the money of Bill Gates in our imagination (such as fully funding my viable third party plan or creating a truly non profit health insurer that would put for profit insurers out of business thus creating single payer or the old Blue Cross Blue Shield…my dream.), I would love to spend Pierre’s and Glenn’s $250 million dollars mentally like Professor X in order to create a much needed Real American Press, that’s not owned by the same people who own the politicians.

First, let us look again at the Chomsky/Hermann Propaganda Model: If you want to know why your local press sucks then this is the first essay that you should read. But here are the 5 rules as to why your local paper probably isn’t very good. From Wikipedia:

  1. Ownership of the medium
  2. Medium’s funding sources
  3. Sourcing
  4. Flak
  5. Anti-Communism and fear ideology

One local example would be the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, which is owned by a right wing billionaire. You could argue that Richard Mellon Scaife, a right wing conservative banking heir, uses all five rules to produce a paper to push elite interests and to especially keep working class whites clueless about who the real moochers are in society. You’ll never see an editorial asking for a return to Glass Steagall but if a poor black person shoots another poor black person then, hey, that’s “The News”. But the truth is that the “liberal” paper, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, isn’t much better as the center left paper because they’re bound and strangled by the objectivity standard. They can’t call things as they are and their owners are probably Center Right the great Tony Norman notwithstanding. The PG is the ineffective CNN to our world’s Fox News. (Read 2 Political Junkies for more on how hypocritical The Tribune Review often is.)

If Pierre follows through, and if his car doesn’t mysteriously and completely accidently erupt into flames (Or commit suicide, or commit suicide, or targeted by drone…you get the idea and maybe journalists are right to be cowardly less Good King Joffrey cut off your tongue or your fingers …), he could trump all five rules. You might even see the Palestinian point of view mentioned in a positive light may miracles never cease. I would certainly hope that Omidyar, who looks to be slightly brown skinned and is reportedly of Iranian descent, would run a press that would be highly critical of plans to turn Iran into a cinder, the positions of Netanyahu or Diane Feinstein’s subsequent applause of such nuking notwithstanding.

But he has to build an institution that can sell that vision. Here are the ten rules, early draft as I’m going to write a fuller piece later on, that I hope he tries in order to create a democratic press.

Dream One: Emulate the Guardian’s Board and Trust Fund

You might wonder why American press outlets didn’t hire Glenn Greenwald or even if they had would they have run his stories. Doubtful. Or they would have been weakened and denuded by the “objectivity” standard. The trust fund allowed the Guardian to actually pursue real journalism. And the board, being that is filled with people that like journalism and not just trust fund kids (presumably), allowed that Edward Snowden story to thrive. What’s best, they don’t have to invest in money losing print although they might take a look at Sunday papers because those are pretty profitable. If you spend no more than 25 million per year, then that sum could last a good 10 years without that sum running out. It’s clear from the very authoritative and informative piece written by Ken Auletta that a strong independent board can do a lot of good. By the way, assuming a board of 12 but it could be any number, that board could and should include: Ralph Nader, Mike Moore, Amy Goodman, Naomi Klein, Jane Hamsher, Yves Smith, Dean Baker, Jim Hightower, and hey I’ll be the token African American. I’m qualified oddly enough…

Dream Two: Create a visual component and market yourselves to Netflix/Hulu/Create your own brand.

I should also add: Mirror everything online. There are already the outlets. They just need the financing. Democracy Now, the Real News, Sam Seder, Marc Maron (give him and Lee Camp slots opposite the Daily Show/Colbert and let’s see what they can do..) and most certainly The Young Turks. Where else could these guys work anyway? CNN?

Dream Three: Base your paper around the state, then the city, then the federal level.

I think you should create statewide papers. I have almost no idea what’s going on at the state level. Fracking is literally signing my death warrant and I’m pretty sure the frackers aren’t being regulated at all but because newspaper owners are players and investors I won’t know until I’m drinking radioactive water. Target five to seven states. Call it the Pennsylvania Defender, the Florida Defender, etc. More on this later.

Dream Four: Create a democratic newsroom.

This is the hard part. And how much control are you willing to give up? But let writers choose their editors and also treat the writers decently. Give them the option to self publish if they print something you don’t like. Use progressive discipline. Give them a percentage (50 percent at least) of published books based on their reporting. More on this later.

Dream Five: Create a situation where you can get a shot at employment without knowing somebody or going to an Ivy League school.

This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I see sites that I know that my style works for but I can’t get in the door because they won’t let me try out. One way might be to create a mirror of the Daily Kos, that can talk about third parties and Israel without the user being banned, and take a look at writers rising up the ranks.

Dream Six: Teach your writers to take their own pics and use social media tools.

This should be obvious but I think it should be mentioned. I guess what I’m really talking about is your own remote drone army. Shouldn’t cost you anymore than $10 million. More on this later.

Dream Seven: People you should hire.

Obviously, all the people and groups I mentioned for the visual side in Dream Two would be nice. But just a list off the top of my head: Juan Cole, Matt Taibbi (he likes writing about sports apparently…) Greg Palast, Jane Hamsher, Naomi Klein, anyone who wants to write at the Center of Constitutional Rights…David Swanson, Doug Henwood, Dean Baker, Amy Goodman, David Dayen, Yves Smith, Chris Hayes, that hot Occupy SEC chick (Alexis Goldstein) that only a Chris Hayes would bring to television, a few people from Russia Today because where else would they go…I would recommend myself as well if you would like to hire an African American. (I would love to review books, or mop up, anything to help that enterprise…) Your token conservative should be Tim Carney because he at least recognizes that the Democrats are bought off as well and aren’t socialist commies. More on this later.

Dream Eight: Lose the MSM racist reporting about proles, car wrecks, one sided foreign policy coverage etc…

I would like to think that this is the kind of national press that would make the Alan Grayson hearing interviewing drone strike victims major news, as opposed to something that only Al Jazeera covers. More on this later.

Dream Nine: Lose the objectivity model. Embrace advocacy journalism.

I read that New York Times debate. I feel safe. You should be able to represent any position you want but you should verify, verify and verify some more. You might even go further and start supporting progressive and third party candidates if such a thing were possible. There is a plan…More on this later.

Dream Ten: Don’t be afraid to take over the world.

This new press venture, which could be thrilling and interesting, could crush the dinosaur print media. I say let them die. The country is in the bad shape it’s in partly because of the relentless mediocrity of the print media. Let it be replaced by your venture and not by Fox News. And good luck. More on this later.

Not Related: Still mad at Gidas Flowers.  Also Not Related: I’m giving away one of my short stories for free on the Kindle. It’s got sex scenes of questionable taste and a compelling cover. And hey, its free.

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Photo by Pierre Omidyar under Creative Commons license