Just over two months after publishing its first revelations about the NSA’s mass surveillance program, First Look Media’s The Intercept is taking a break. Well, sort of.
The newest member of the team (that we know of), built around former Guardian journalist and Edward Snowden cohort Glenn Greenwald, is editor-in-chief John Cook of Gawker. And on Monday, April 14, Cook took to the Intercept’s blog to explain why there hasn’t been a whole lot of action from The Intercept’s reporting team.
The main reason for the lack of reporting coming out of the team, which also includes Liliana Segura formerly of The Nation, is that they launched before they were 100 percent ready to launch. That is, they started posting stories detailing the NSA’s surveillance and other government programs before they were fully staffed and had a long-term vision for what The Intercept should be. Wrote Cook:
Until we have completed the work of getting staffed up and conceptually prepared for the launch of a full-bore news operation that will be producing a steady stream of shit-kicking stories, The Intercept will be narrowly focusing on one thing and one thing only: Reporting out stories from the NSA archive as quickly and responsibly as is practicable. We will do so at a tempo that suits the material. When we are prepared to publish those stories, we will publish them. When we are not, we will be silent for a time, unless Glenn Greenwald has some blogging he wants to do, because no one can stop Glenn Greenwald from blogging.
So there you go. The Intercept’s decision to go live was based on a broader obligation to just start reporting, “not based on an assessment that everything that one needs for the successful launch of a news web site — staff, editorial capacity, and answers to questions about the site’s broader focus, operational strategy, structure, and design,” said Cook.
Personally, I appreciate the sentiment that the website and editorial strategy don’t have to be perfect in order to set up shop. Ezra Klein‘s Vox did something similar and dubbed the site’s first iteration “a work in progress,” almost as if to invite criticism. The idea that The Intercept — even with such a specific topic focus — should have hammered out every single detail about what it wanted to be before launching is unfair. But, I can understand the complaints around the Web that The Intercept’s design is boring at best, given the $250 million eBay founder Pierre Omidyar funneled into the project. For all we know, though, part of their silence could be allowing for a total makeover.