Snowden Reporter Building Media Empire in Jungles of Brazil

Monday, 04 Aug 2014 05:53 PM

By John Blosser

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It's the last place on earth you'd expect to find a Pulitzer-winning attorney and national security reporter, but Glenn Greenwald, in his lofty perch high in the Brazilian jungles, seems happily at home.

And from this remote location, where the phones, electricity and computers don't work much of the time, he is striving to launch a massive new high-tech journalistic empire, the New York Times reports.

Greenwald won his Pulitzer by breaking a series of world-shaking stories about the revelations of Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who exposed worldwide spying by the CIA, the NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The articles made Greenwald, 47, an internationally acclaimed journalist and commentator.

Today, surrounded by thick greenery and his pack of a dozen dogs high above Rio, Greenwald, backed by money from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, is building First Look Media, a digital news site which, so far, includes his own articles on The Intercept and, eventually, will include a "digital magazine with a satirical approach to American politics and culture" put together by Matt Taibbi, once with Rolling Stone, Omidyar told NDTV. 

Along with Gannet Foundation and George Polk awards, and four best-selling New York Times books to his credit, Greenwald is the first non-Brazilian to win the Esso Premio for Excellence in Investigative Reporting. 

He has lived in Brazil since 2004. According to a 2011 interview in Out, the openly gay journalist decided to move there to live with his Brazilian husband out of opposition to the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act.

Omidyar wrote on The Intercept that the purpose of the new journalism media will be to "experiment, innovate and overcome existing obstacles and to make it easier for journalists to deliver the transformative stories we all need." 

Omidyar told NDTV that he has pledged $250 million to the project, and that its hub will be located in San Francisco.

Greenwald hopes to not rely on Omidyar's money. "Figuring out a model is really hard because we don't want to be just a dependency of Pierre. We could — he has so much money — but I think he wants to create a new model of journalism, and that only works if it becomes in some way self-sustaining."

But sometimes the jungle gets in the way. "It's funny," Greenwald said, "I'm working with a Silicon Valley technologist who became the 100th-richest person in the world through his understanding of programming, but half the time, we can't communicate on the telephone because my internet isn't working or my phone is out.

"It's an irony, but it's also a kind of balance for me."

Whether First Look rises or falls, Greenwald believes, is a matter of quality. "No one, not the New York Times, no one, is entitled to an audience," he told the Times. "The ability to thrive is directly dependent upon your ability to convince people that you're providing something valuable and unique."

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