Announcement

This is just a quick announcement that I have ended my affiliation with First Look/The Intercept. My departure was voluntary and amicable.

To anticipate questions some may ask, my departure from The Intercept doesn’t relate to anything I wrote or didn’t write about Ukraine. It did not relate to the downtime The Intercept just took (and seems to be coming out of). The reasons for my departure predate both of those things, to January.

I’ll have more to say–not about The Intercept, per se, but about things I’ve learned about my own journalism over the last 7 months, as the Edward Snowden story played out and the Intercept discussed hiring me–at some later point, after some reflection.

Things here will remain the same.

We will, however, be doing a fundraising campaign next week (or you can beat the rush by donating today!). Until such time as a billionaire wants to support the work we do here, we will rely on readers to pay the bills.

Thanks, as always, for making all that possible!

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

30 replies
  1. scribe says:

    Independence has its benefits, though wealth and steady paychecks usually aren’t among them.

    Good luck.

  2. overthrow-r1b says:

    It is unbelievable. I thought you were second to Greenwald. Now maybe your first.

    Are you saying it’s because you dislike billionaires, or just the u.s. 5-eyes’ hand picked billionaires?

    I don’t know what happened in January, I don’t understand. Maybe it’s because they refuse to mention the rampant internal theft and genocide that occurs in u.s. in conjunction with the documents the whole time.

  3. Charlie Primero says:

    The Intercept was nothing but a P.R. whitewash for Omidyar’s relationship as a NSA data provider and Greenwald’s limited-hangout program.

    Getting out before those facts soil the reputation of everyone associated with it was a wise move.

  4. abbadabba says:

    I could see you need to relieve your whirling mind daily, and I bet they told you to keep is short and weekly like an AP story. I’ve watched a lot of talent try to form super groups and they are more difficult to negotiate than the pre-nup of a princess. Especially when the groom’s got OIL! Limiting resources.

    You keep doing what you do so well, and the rest of the world can stand still. I dig a deep well. It makes me think, and there’s nothing better to beat back the banality that a well worked thought.

    Here’s treat most can’t get but you deserve to see. At the 17:30 minute mark, you can see the world is working mostly beneath us. You are a wild cat. Keep drilling! What the well is that?

    https://originals.azpm.org/p/azill-science/2014/5/6/34576-az-illustrated-science-tuesday-may-6-2014/

  5. orionATL says:

    in my view a wise decision without regard to any considerations outside your own personality; i’d warrant your personality needs to stay independent of any organization.

    i can’t imagine you happy being assigned to stories by an editor or given a beat.

    furthermore, your professional social skills seem entirely adequate to meet your current high level of accomplishment without any “assistance” an organization might provide.

    finally, the social pressures for organization members to engage in group-think

    and for news pros on a beat to line up for those cocktail weiners is essentially unresistable.

  6. lefty665 says:

    Your skills were valuable to TI. They are invaluable here. Thanks for the opportunity to have more of you back home.
    .
    It has been apparent for some time that all is not happy in Omidyarland. Cook’s pre-passover post was bizarre. Hard to see that he has many qualifications for a very tough job.
    .

  7. jo6pac says:

    My thought back when you joined them was this doesn’t seem like a good fit. We’ll see how it turns out for them in the near future.

  8. bloopie2 says:

    Well, at least they haven’t immediately and forthwith removed your name from their masthead, a la NYT; a sign of amicability as stated. Continued best to you and thank you.

  9. Helen Tansey says:

    Marcy – I only found you and your team’s work a year or more ago and I provide links to many of your stories over at my blog. You and your team are rare gems in the world of alt news. When you first announced your consulting w/FL I found myself feeling torn b/w knowing it was a great opportunity for you and a potential loss of a solid independent writer in alt news.

    I am clueless as to what is going on at FL but find the fact that GGs work is back over at the Guardian and his responding to his critics via his personal blog odd. I’m sure the Guardian has some sort of contractual arrangement w/him and his book, but no one seems to want to explain anything. Also odd.

    That said, having your focus back on your hard earned work and continuing to build the emptywheel I sincerely hope will bring you and your team great reward and much satisfaction.

    Wishing you and emptywheel all the best.

  10. please says:

    I’ll await the details as provided. I was excited about the announcement, I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to expose your analysis to a wider audience.

    Either way, best wishes.

  11. Hugh says:

    The Intercept/First Look seemed like a good idea but with no follow through and burdened from the outset by its dubious connections to Omidyar, or its connections to the dubious Omidyar, whichever. I expected first class staffers and recruiters to be hired who really knew how to put a news operation together and who also knew how to deal with the new breed of journalist bloggers. I expected too to get some idea of the media they were going use, what areas were going to be covered, and how. And I expected to have at least a general idea about all this some months ago. But none of that happened.

    Aside from a few names on a masthead, there seemed to be no there there. Without the Snowden material, it is hard to see First Look happening at all. But if it is all or mostly about Snowden, it is hard not to see it as just a ploy by Omidyar to control this material. Omidyar as gatekeeper to Greenwald and Poitras who in turn act as gatekeepers to the Snowden files. Everyone else becomes superfluous. So congrats to Marcy for getting out. I can only see this as a brand tarnisher for anyone who stays in it.

  12. Ben Franklin says:

    And, as for Taibbi? Can he dislodge himself before the money-trap overtakes him?

    A cottage in the south of France is tempting, to say the least.

  13. Ben Franklin says:

    There was a slight odor of bullshit emanating from Ebay which they needed to obliterate from the outset. They didn’t even try or consider the necessity, and the result resembles the garden-variety self-interest we have become comfortable with, as long as it doesn’t get out of hand.

  14. LitThom says:

    Sorry to hear it, Marcy, and look forward to your ruminations on your journalism. Best of everything to you.

    And, uh, wow – lots of Charles Johnson type nutzoid in the comments…

  15. Kitt says:

    Thanks for posting this. Disregard the email I sent asking you about this. That was sent before I became aware of that you had addressed your decision. Sorry to hear that you won’t be providing your talents to The Intercept articles and such. I’m interested to read whatever details you eventually post on the subject later.

  16. Marcus says:

    I look forward to knowing why, but congratulate you on your emancipation. And where o where are those fine journalists, Scahill? Taibbi? Froomkin? Knowing Greeenwald has awards to accept, books to sell and movies to promote – I won’t ask, but the rest? Am I not looking in the right places? Did they wormhole their way out of our time/space continuum for French cottages under super bright Antares skies?

    • LitThom says:

      Are you being serious? Can people actually not come up with an answer themselves as to why a brand new media organization – funded with a start of $50 million – might take some time to get everything necessary ready for a big launch into daily, perhaps hourly, news (and more) coverage? A year, five years, down the road – will the months of setup matter, or even be rmembered?

      • lefty665 says:

        Yeah, but… It’s been half a year with a lot of talent mostly twiddling its thumbs. The Editor’s first post was bizarre. https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/04/14/passover-greetings-editor/ Whining that no one can keep Greenwald from posting, but don’t expect anything from anyone else until we clear these incredibly high hurdles was not encouraging. It is not like they have to buy printing presses, newsprint and ink before they can start publishing. Ten bucks a month for a url and a hosting package, they’re in business. They have a stable of wonderfully productive journalists itching to post. WTF Omidyar?
        .
        Dunno what’s up, but it has not been an auspicious beginning. We need TI. Got my fingers crossed it will sort out. However, there are not many encouraging signs so far. I am tickled that MT will be back here full time.
        .
        Marcie, BMAZ, Jim, et al have a trademark here and add value with every post. Go for it, and let the world beat a path to your doorstep.
        .
        I kick in to support EW and encourage all who value this operation to do the same.

      • Hugh says:

        What launch? What set up? It’s been around 8 months since the initial announcement and since then nothing, just the strange passover letter announcing that there wouldn’t be much for the foreseeable future other than posts now and then on the Snowden files. That’s not conspiracy. That’s from the folks at the Intercept.

        I would suggest that you ditch the wishful thinking and apply the same critical approach and skepticism to the First Look story that you would apply to any other story. If you did, it would take you no time to see that it doesn’t take 8 months to come up with basics like a business plan, a mission statement, initial staff hiring, and an overall sketch of what the operation will look like. If conservatives put together something as nebulous as First Look, it would be cut to pieces in short order. Yet because various headliners have attached their names to First Look, all of a sudden we are not supposed to ask the obvious questions or note the glaring lack of movement or content.

      • aimee says:

        Vox Media has done it pretty well with only $11 million more and a lot less time. They seem to churning out content.

      • brian says:

        thanks for being nearly the only sane voice in this comment section so far. people are just pointing out all of the ways that TI is or might be imperfect – i guess ms. wheelers readers really love her or think she needs lots of support/speculation about her motives.

  17. jayackroyd (@jayackroyd) says:

    I’m not speculating. All I know is that there’s nobody I trust more than EW.

  18. Joanne Leon says:

    All very intriguing and I’m as curious as everyone else about what the heck is going on with FL, all that money, all that material and all that talent.

    I was really excited about a wider audience for emptywheel research and stories, free standing or embedded in other stories.

    But the bottom line is it doesn’t much matter where Marcy writes, I’ll be there just as I have for I don’t even know how many years now. You’ve got extraordinary instinct, Marcy, and I’m sure you’re doing the right thing.

  19. lawnorder says:

    Long time fan here, from the dark days of Bush Admin torturing and you exposing them. Wishing you good luck :)

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    We’re lucky to have your informed, critical, clear, independent voice commenting on things that matter. That gives the Intercept a daunting example to emulate.

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