We wrote at the time: “Who’ll fire the staffer who’s been coasting since day one? Or better: Who’ll make it her business to notice the staffer who’s been coasting since day one? Who’s going to take responsibility for key tasks that have managed to slip through the horizontal cracks? Who’s going to take the calls from whiners?”
Months later, the place is a mess, as First Look’s national-security title The Intercept conceded today in a remarkable post. It describes the departure from First Look of Matt Taibbi, a high-profile hire from Rolling Stone, following a number of clashes over the direction of The Racket, First Look’s yet-to-launch digital magazine.
Titled “THE INSIDE STORY OF MATT TAIBBI’S DEPARTURE FROM FIRST LOOK MEDIA,” the piece reads like something that some outside media-crit site would put together. Enjoy this paragraph:
Taibbi’s dispute with his bosses instead centered on differences in management style and the extent to which First Look would influence the organizational and corporate aspects of his role as editor-in-chief. Those conflicts were rooted in a larger and more fundamental culture clash that has plagued the project from the start: A collision between the First Look executives, who by and large come from a highly structured Silicon Valley corporate environment, and the fiercely independent journalists who view corporate cultures and management-speak with disdain. That divide is a regular feature in many newsrooms, but it was exacerbated by First Look’s avowed strategy of hiring exactly those journalists who had cultivated reputations as anti-authoritarian iconoclasts.
Bylines on the piece go to Greenwald, Poitras, Scahill and Cook. Just goes to show: nothing like office strife to distract America’s most transgressive journalists from the real oppressor. What shenanigans have those scoundrels at the NSA propagated while Greenwald & Co. have been FOIA’ing Taibbi’s e-mails?
The internal tell-all is brilliant on more than one level. By reporting out the nitty-gritty of Taibbi’s alienation, these folks quite legitimately shore up their radical-transparentist bona fides. At the same time, they quash outside inquiries into their office culture. What more is there to say after they’ve already reported details such as the following: “Taibbi and First Look disagreed over the functionality of the website, the timing of its launch, which designers and programmers they would use, Racket‘s organizational chart—even, at one point, over office seating assignments.” There’s a lot more, too. These disclosures come days after New York magazine had reported that Taibbi had taken leave.
From all the details of Taibbi’s allegedly terrible management practices and the details of First Look’s struggles against the IRON FIST of First Look Media emerges a picture of utter ungovernability and an unwillingness to concede that the person bankrolling a venture might just have a say in how things get done.
Savor these lines: “In April, First Look executive editor Eric Bates told Cook and Taibbi that Omidyar had imposed a three-month ‘hiring freeze’ on both magazines in order to allow the company to figure out its directions and ‘values.’ (Omidyar later told staffers that there was no freeze, and that his instructions had been misunderstood.) Both editors were in the middle of recruiting their staffs, and the restriction was viewed internally as emblematic of the arbitrary and excessive authority being exercised by First Look over the magazines’ operations.”
Bold text inserted just because.