First Look Media announced itself to the world in 2013 as the non-profit journalism startup that helped national security hacker Edward Snowden publish thousands of secret government emails.
Funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, the new outfit launched “The Intercept,” with the goal of publishing high-impact, public-interest journalism that reached far beyond the national security arena. First Look aims to tell stories with a social conscience on the Intercept and, now, to bring similar content to television, documentary and feature films and podcasts.
This week, with the Democratic National Convention as a backdrop, Omidyar’s baby is expanding into editorial cartooning, with the July 19 relaunch of the provocative website, The Nib. The Nib has featured political cartoonists like Matt Bors, Eleri Harris, Matt Lubchansky for about three years. But after being phased out by its previous host, Medium.com, Bors’ site needed a new home and that became First Look.
The cartoonists’ work now appears at TheNib.com and in an installation that is drawing the public to the historic Snyderman-Works Galleries at 303 Cherry Street in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood. It’s another chance for Omidyar’s baby to expand beyond its roots as a hard-core, pure digital journalism play. A crowd of 300 was expected for the Tuesday night gallery opening, but dozens of fans were streaming through the gallery hours earlier.
Bors said in an interview that the alliance with First Look gives him and his fellow cartoonists a higher-profile perch from which they can savage Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the hypocrisies of Campaign 2016. “We’ve teamed up with First Look Media to do more of what we’re good at: scathing satire, great journalism and non-fiction, all in comics form, the best medium,” Bors said in a statement. “The Nib will be available pretty much everywhere you are. There’s a daily newsletter to read our comics in your inbox, plus, we’ll be publishing on every platform and experimenting with ambitious long-form, GIFs, animation and even print products physically made IRL.”
Adam Pincus, Executive Vice President for Programming & Content at First Look, praised The Nib as adding a pungent first-person take to First Look’s content package, as it prepares a series of podcasts, feature films, documentaries and a magazine. Already, the expanded First Look has made a splash with comedian Kamau Bell’s “Politically Reactive” podcasts. Bell’s audio-interview show has drawn a substantial audience – ranking No. 2 among news and political podcasts on the Web and No. 14 among all podcasts.
And a new documentary film unit, headed by Laura Poitras – the filmmaker behind the Academy Award-winning “Citzenfour” documentary on Snowden – has been launched to allow First Look to support other non-fiction films.
Michael Bloom, president of First Look – with prior stints at the Guardian and MTV and other businesses – is the new media veteran empowered to turn Omidyar’s dreams into a politically potent and, hopefully, money-making endeavor. Heading up the content side of the operation is Pincus, who previously worked at the Sundance Channel and as Executive Vice President of Programming and Production for GroupM Entertainment North America.
Bloom was in Philadelphia Tuesday for a formal opening of The Nib’s gallery show. Using the Maas project as just one example, he called First Look’s new ambitions “unbelievably inspiring and ambitious.” Bloom spoke near a canopy of giant red, white and blue balloons, festooned with cartoon images of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the hashtag #TheNib.
Bloom said he expects First Look will soon have more projects ready for a public roll out. “It’s an ambitious company with a lot of high quality people trying to move the mission forward,” he said. He described how billionaire Omidyar is focused almost exclusively on advancing the common good, and only secondarily on turning a profit. “This work is not only unbelievably inspiring, but the people I am working with are the best I have ever worked with,” said Bloom. “We’re on a mission together and the best thing is, it’s tons of fun.”