Wow. This is an extraordinary statement from Greenwald, Poitras, Scahill and Cook, throwing Matt Taibbi under the bus and backing it over him several times: The Inside Story of Matt Taibbi’s Departure From First Look Media - the Intercept.
In June, Taibbi, Greenwald, Poitras, and Scahill wrote a joint letter to Omidyar outlining their principal grievances—the lack of clear budgets and repeated and arbitrary restrictions on hiring—and making clear that a failure to resolve them would jeopardize the feasibility of both projects.
That letter led to lengthy and often heated discussions. But they were productive: Most of The Intercept’s problems were eventually resolved. The magazine received a substantial budget, which Cook was free to use as he wished without consultation with First Look, and The Intercept resumed hiring a team of talented reporters, editors, and researchers. The site began producing stories more regularly, morale improved significantly as oversight from First Look diminished, and the team is free to do the reporting it wants to do without interference.
For a time, it appeared that Taibbi’s project had also found the right path. It, too, received its own multi-million-dollar budget, began to hire more reporters, filmmakers, and editors, and set a launch date for September.
But because the site had not yet launched, First Look continued to focus on organizational and corporate issues, and managers actively supervised and at times overruled Taibbi’s management decisions. His relationships with both First Look managers and some Racket employees who reported to him were strained.
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.
But wait… that’s not all.
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. Temple conducted an investigation, and First Look determined that while none of the alleged conduct rose to the level of legal liability, the grievance bolstered their case that Taibbi should not be the manager of Racket. Among their concerns were the staffer’s claims that Taibbi had been privately criticizing First Look managers, particularly Ching, that Taibbi’s abrasive demeanor was alienating some on his staff, and that Taibbi instructed Racket staff to resolve any grievances directly with him rather than going to upper management.
On October 10, according to Taibbi’s account, Temple and Ching told Taibbi that he would be immediately stripped of all managerial responsibilities pending their investigation. (First Look managers dispute this account, claiming that Taibbi was never stripped of any duties.)
Taibbi was adamant that the complaint had no merit, and rejected any demotion or change in his responsibilities. On the day he was confronted by Temple and Ching, Taibbi left the office and—aside from one staff meeting he attended, after which he was instructed by Omidyar not to come back until they reached agreement on his role—did not return. He repeatedly told First Look that he would resign if it did not reverse the decision to reduce his managerial duties, and was insistent that he would accept no changes that could be construed as an acceptance on his part of the validity of the employee complaint.
Just go read it all; it’s a jaw-dropper. These excerpts only scratch the surface of the dysfunction.
Clearly Greenwald and his comrades knew this story was going to come out soon, so they decided to get out in front of it first and spin it their way. All these months they’ve been playing it like everything was just great, no problems, we’re redefining journalism over here and it’s cool — but behind the scenes it was a nightmare.
This ain’t over yet, folks.