One of those taking a hard look at First Look, it turns out, is First Look itself. The fledgling news outlet is working with a Silicon Valley institution — Stanford University — to examine management strategies at the start-up, several sources tell the Erik Wemple Blog.
Neither First Look nor Stanford is eager to talk about their collaboration. An inquiry to Justin Ferrell, fellowships director at Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (known as the “d.school”), who is reportedly involved in the study, fetched this reply from PR operative Debbe Stern: “Thanks for reaching out to both me and Justin at the Stanford d.school. We don’t really feel we have anything helpful to add to your story. I am sorry we can’t be more helpful.”
And John Temple, a top editorial official at First Look, declined to provide any information: “Sorry Erik. Not now.” Before joining First Look as president of audience and products, Temple was a senior fellow at Stanford’s John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships program, “focusing on design thinking as applied to journalism challenges.” (Temple is also a former managing editor of The Post). Sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed that Stanford is doing a study of First Look but didn’t provide details.
First Look has had trouble getting its journalism into circulation, and if there were any questions that the company has management issues, The Intercept destroyed them last week with its eye-opening account of Taibbi’s departure. It detailed his clashes with management and cited 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.”
In other words, there’s plenty of material here to study.
It just so happens that the Stanford d.school has a class, “Designing Creative Organizations,” that would have a blast examining First Look. According to a description, the course will teach participants — professional fellows — about “how design thinking applies to leading creative organizations. They will learn and apply organizational design models that they can rely on in making their own leadership decisions. The project-based approach will allow them to experiment as they learn in a real-world environment, without the risk associated within their own organizations.”
Participants in this course will apply “several organizational frameworks” that are highly familiar to the Erik Wemple Blog: “ASA (attract-select-attrition), ARC (architecture-routines-culture), Emergence and others,” reads the course description.