First Look Media had a clear mission: hold the powerful accountable. Backed by Pierre M. Omidyar – billionaire founder of eBay, it was and is a noble concept. Unfortunately, it stumbled out of the starting gate; a victim of outsized personalities, if we wish to put it kindly.
Seeking reporters and writers not afraid to speak truth to power, Omidyar recruited a highly regarded team of aggressive, adversarial and competitive journalists. Unfortunately, the very boat rocking characteristics which contributed to their success as writers and agents of change resulted in them not playing well with others, even others who supported their basic mission. “Fiercely independent…view(ed) corporate culture and management speak with disdain.”
Omidyar, described by New York magazine as “mild mannered” and “looking for a way to spend his fortune”, evidently underestimating the amount of emotional labor required to create his well-intentioned start up, attempted to manage it remotely from Hawaii. “The naïveté of trying to construct something around very irascible personalities is coming to the front, back in the day, there was a reason there were temperamental journalists and then editors and subeditors. Editors were the people who managed these egos.” – Rafat Ali, the co-founder of Skift and media news site PaidContent.
Omidyar requirements for a prospective publisher now include:
“Ego kept in check,”
“It’s about the team, not about me”
“Care more about the company’s success than about your title or status.”
“Reacts calmly to criticism and negative feedback.”
Note: This blog draws on a November 1, 2014 article on page B1 on NYT “First Look’s Personalities Prove Tough to Manage.”
As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. Nathan S. Collier