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Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story about the U.S. government's massive surveillance program, is quitting The Guardian. He's leaving the British daily and joining a journalism startup with eBay founder and billionaire philanthropist Pierre Omidyar.
The move may offer Greenwald a break from Britain's reporting restrictions and a chance to further propel his journalism career.
The idea is to create a "new digital, investigative news shop," NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik says. "What he needs to figure out is a business model, but he's saving himself a lot of costs from a conventional newspaper."
As NPR reported Wednesday, Omidyar has said he will fund the project with his own personal investment, rather than through his philanthropic investment firm, Omidyar Network.
The venture is an opportunity for Omidyar to build a news organization from scratch, and "perhaps fill the gaps that he thought mainstream news organizations were not covering," Folkenflik tells Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin.
Greenwald himself may also have more latitude with the project, given British media laws.
"In Britain, there are far more restrictive laws about what you can and can't report than there are in the U.S.," Folkenflik says. "The editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, chafed about that and ultimately decided to share some of the documents obtained from Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker ... to The New York Times and to ProPublica here in the states as a way of avoiding the reach of British authorities."
Rusbridger wrote about the decision to share the files in August, saying, "I strongly suspected that our ability to research and publish anything to do with this trove of secret material would be severely constrained in the UK. America, for all its own problems with media laws and whistleblowers, at least has press freedom enshrined in a written constitution."
Greenwald criticized the British government after authorities detained his partner at Heathrow Airport in August, using Schedule 7 of Britain's Terrorism Act 2000.
The world has learned more about Greenwald since the surveillance leaks, but how his role will change in this next step is uncertain, though he's called Omidyar's offer "a once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity."
Greenwald "has gone on an incredible voyage," Folkenflik says. "He's a lawyer, he's an activist, he's been a columnist and a blogger, and he's now been inventing himself at The Guardian, with the collaboration of the editors there, into more of a reporter.
"There are critics of Greenwald who say that he remains the crusading advocate he ever was," Folkenflik adds. "At the same time, you know, he really is trying to apply what he says are analytical tools to the documents that he's obtained, to figure out what's newsworthy. That's, in a sense, a different role than a pure advocate would play.
"Certainly, in the new shop, it'll be very interesting to see how they create editors and colleagues around him to help guide the force of his reporting," Folkenflik says. "I think we really have yet to see how that's going to play out."