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Media Corporation Hires Journalist Who Hates Corporations, Failure Ensues

October 30, 2014

I’m going to try to tell this story as if you know nothing about it.

A big company called First Look Media hired former Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi to launch a new site which would presumably cover news, politics and culture. They also hired Alex Pareene who used to work for Salon – a site so far left that it defies parody.

Matt Taibbi is a proud progressive who hates all things Republican. He also hates banks and corporate culture so it should come as a surprise to no one that he’s a huge fan of Elizabeth Warren.

Millions of dollars were poured into this project by the entrepreneur who founded the parent company and he had high hopes. Unfortunately, he also expected his new employees to do annoying things like attend meetings and follow rules.

This week it was announced, with much buzz in the media world, that Matt Taibbi left the company by resigning, or being fired, depending on who tells the story.

A site called The Intercept claims to have the inside scoop. If you have any interest in media, this story is worth your time.

Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, and John Cook contributed to the report…

The Inside Story Of Matt Taibbi’s Departure From First Look Media

Matt Taibbi, who joined First Look Media just seven months ago, left the company on Tuesday. His departure—which he describes as a refusal to accept a work reassignment, and the company describes as a resignation—was the culmination of months of contentious disputes with First Look founder Pierre Omidyar, chief operating officer Randy Ching, and president John Temple over the structure and management of Racket, the digital magazine Taibbi was hired to create. Those disputes were exacerbated by a recent complaint from a Racket employee about Taibbi’s behavior as a manager.

The departure of the popular former Rolling Stone writer is a serious setback for First Look in its first year of operations. Last January, Omidyar announced with great fanfare that he would personally invest $250 million in the company to build “a general interest news site that will cover topics ranging from entertainment and sports to business and the economy” incorporating multiple “digital magazines” as well as a “flagship news site.”

One year later, First Look still has only one such magazine, The Intercept.

Taibbi and other journalists apparently didn’t realize they were joining a “company” with certain expectations that millions of reasonable Americans comply with every single day…

Taibbi and other journalists who came to First Look believed they were joining a free-wheeling, autonomous, and unstructured institution. What they found instead was a confounding array of rules, structures, and systems imposed by Omidyar and other First Look managers on matters both trivial—which computer program to use to internally communicate, mandatory regular company-wide meetings, mandated use of a “responsibility assignment matrix” called a “RASCI,” popular in business-school circles for managing projects—as well as more substantive issues.

Here’s the kicker. Matt Taibbi the profound, forward thinking progressive was accused of sexism by a female employee…

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.

These simmering problems came to a head this month when a Racket staffer complained to senior management that Taibbi had been verbally abusive and unprofessionally hostile, and that she felt the conduct may have been motivated, at least in part, by her gender.

That’s all the digesting I’m going to do for now but you should read the whole thing.

The next time First Look Media wants to launch a new business venture, perhaps they should start by hiring writers who don’t hate businesses and corporations.

After all, they don’t create jobs anyway.

Maybe prospective employees who are big fans of Elizabeth Warren shouldn’t be at the top of the interview list.

Just a thought.

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