Netflix-like data to shape political reporting—Should we worry?

Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire eBay founder concerned about NSA surveillance and threats to press freedom, is creating a new news venture, to the tune of (at least) $250 million. His plan to fund investigative journalism will help bridge the gap between what a vigorous democracy needs and what current media markets can support financially.

But one feature has gotten no attention: the plan to be a “general news” venture, including sports and entertainment.   Why do that? Sports and entertainment news are doing just fine, thank you, and don’t need a billionaire ’s charity. Plus the old-fashioned full-service approach doesn’t jibe with Omidyar’s “entirely new,” legacy-free rhetoric.

In fact, the brief explanation for the full-service route, communicated in an interview Omidyar gave to Jay Rosen, raises important questions. First, Omidyar is saying, implicitly, that others’ solutions for journalism, funding the unfunded content with the likes of Pro Publica and Kaiser Health News, is seriously incomplete. Is he right? Second, Omidyar may be planning a potentially creepy use of Netflix-like personally data to shape the public interest journalism. That would be ironic, since one of his first hires is Glenn Greenwald, famous for his NSA spying scoop. Should we worry? Continue reading

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