Suppose you’re designing a news organization from the ground up. You can make it whatever you want. Let’s imagine it’s to launch later this year. You want it to be good. Really good. You hope it’s a great success. And, though your funds aren’t unlimited, you aren’t exactly strapped for cash.
What would you do?
What would your goals be?
Whom would you hire?
What does your idealized newsroom look like?
These are the questions First Look Media founder Pierre Omidyar has most certainly been pondering. And, in a new video unveiled today, he provides a tantalizing peek at the structure and philosophy behind the new news organization.
Let’s take a look:
It’s an interesting pitch, and I’m intrigued by some of what’s planned.
But, for a digitally-native news startup, the most striking thing about First Look is how unequivocally old school it sounds.
NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN?
Consider a few of these highlights from Omidyar’s video outline:
- Separation of the technology stuff from the rest of news organization (to the point that a separate company will be formed).
- Full support staff, including researchers and copy editors.
- Very traditional-sounding areas of coverage – entertainment, sports, politics, business.
- Separate niche magazines.
- Even the video itself is in black and white (for the most part), just like how they used to make newspapers!
Just as telling is what’s missing from Omidyar’s vision of what professionally-produced journalism can be. There’s no direct mention of things like social media, audience engagement, data visualizations, news apps, interactive infographics, mobile news, and so on.
Granted, this is a high-level introduction, and some of that stuff is a bit specific, but the flagship here is a website, not, say, a mobile app.
READING THE TEA LEAVES
So what’s it all mean? Will this venture fall flat? Will it elevate journalism itself to new heights?
Who knows. I’m certainly not sure, but the pitch is, in a way, surprisingly refreshing.
Rather than following the latest trends, Omidyar’s approach seems to be: We know what worked, and we should bring it back.
But there’s a lingering doubt: Is this an idealized view of the way news used to be made?
And though the focus on producing “transformative stories” – those that “make a difference” is laudable, a little something on speaking truth to power or hard-hitting investigative journalism would have been nice.
Perhaps these are some of stories First Look Media will tell.