Mr. Taibbi abruptly left First Look this week without ever writing a story. On Thursday, an unusual article appeared on The Intercept, a First Look owned site started by Mr. Greenwald and others. It described a power struggle inside First Look between Silicon Valley executives “and the fiercely independent journalists who view corporate cultures and management-speak with disdain.”
The loss of Mr. Taibbi, a journalist with an avid following, is a blow to First Look as it tries to distinguish itself in a fiercely competitive and crowded start-up digital media market. Among others, Fusion, Vox and Quartz have been hiring reporters and editors with web experience. Medium, started by two of the founders of Twitter, is something between a publisher and a platform. And BuzzFeed and Vice have recently expanded their reporting ambitions and raised millions from eager investors. Even older companies like Bloomberg Media are seeking to revamp themselves with infusions of fresh talent.
The common cry since the Great Recession has been there’s no money in journalism; see Nadia Pflaum’s take from back in 2011 (bolding ours):
I don’t believe that the state of local journalism is as doom-and-gloom as some of your fellow bloggers gleefully predict. The problem has been identified: advertising dollars are hard to come by and nobody’s really figured out the secret to monetizing the content offered on the Internet.
If all you have to judge by is the bland Star product (hidden beneath your leaf covered lawn: autumn’s least colorful detritus) it’s hard to gainsay Pflaum. And yet…
Elsewhere, in a parallel universe, people throw cash at journalists to produce more and better news coverage; money is not an issue. There are literal piles of cash to play with, hundreds of millions of dollars. However that action is so far removed from the Midwest as be apocryphal.
Because here in the hinterlands there is no money. Here there is just sameness.
In the past we’ve opined Warren Buffet should step in, buy the Star and revamp the newspaper into something more than a minimally adequate daily, à la Bezos’s purchase of The Washington Post. But where a (thoroughly putative) Buffet purchase of the Star differs 1 is in the historical quality of the Star; Bezos wants to refocus the shining beacon that once was the WaPo – to what brief moment in the Star‘s past would Buffet aspire?
And therein lies the difference: it’s not that there’s no money, it’s just there is no money for mediocrity. 2
- Aside for the fact Buffet generally disdains journalistic ‘buys’. ↩
- That is my long-winded version of the explanation to the Astas this morning about why we spend money for a paper subscription to the NYT but not the Star. Which didn’t go as well as I planned, especially when I got into the whole McClatchy mismanagement side of things – kids don’t care about the numbers. ↩