Glenn Greenwald issues a general welcome, then takes to the comment section to specifically defend hiring John Cook:
I'd never been to Gawker before. Really crap site all considered,
These critical comments about Gawker create a good opportunity to make several points:
(1) We specifically set out not to be imprisoned by the long-cultivated idea that the only Serious, Important Journalists are the ones at the NYT, WashPost, and AP. We could easily have hired any number of editors from there and people would then have said: "wow, they're now Serious". But I'm much more interested in bringing on someone who has vibrant, creative ideas for how to do aggressive, innovative, digital-age journalism than I am trying to impress people with our seriousness by bringing on establishment editors. Whether we end up being serious or not will be determined only by one thing: our journalism, and I'm convinced that John will help in all sorts of ways with that.
(2) Does Gawker publish some trivial fluff, celebrity click-bait trash, and vapid meanderings? Yes, and so does pretty much every other media outlet in the online age, including the NYT, the WashPost, the Guardian, Salon, etc. etc. That's what media outlets do to survive. But both Gawker generally and John specifically have done some great innovative journalism with an outsider mentality, which is what I want. John in particular has done all sorts of innovativework using FOIA, has lots of interesting views on journalism (I like this in particular), and he had some critical though worthwhile views on how we have been reporting the NSA documents (basically a critic on the grounds that we haven't published enough documents yet: that's the kind of criticism I appreciate). John is an innovative journalist with an aggressive and creative mind: exactly what we need to oversee and mentor our younger journalists, create ways for us to innovate, and help us grow.
(3) We said from the start that we don't want to be a specialty niche media outlet focusing on a handful of isolated issues: surveillance, secrecy, drones, civil liberties, etc. We want to be a general purpose political outlet that applies our journalistic ethos to a wide range of political topics, mostly to ensure that the journalism we're doing isn't only reaching a limited audience already interested in those limited number of topics but rather as big and general a readership as we can. So we didn't want to hire a clone of me, Jeremy, Laura, Liliana Segura Dan Froomkin, Peter Maass, etc. – we already have plenty of deeply serious writers who will focus on heavy topics.
We need someone who will bring balance to the site, to help us figure out how to engage an audience beyond the large but still limited one we naturally attract on our own, to have different sorts of voices talking about different kinds of topics in creative ways. We want to avoid being homogenized and pigeonholed with a singular deeply serious voice about a limited range of heavy topics: that can be alienating and even dreary to a lot of people we want to reach with our writing. We don't need a Jeremy Scahill or a Peter Maass to run our site; we already have great and very serious journalists like that and we'll have more shortly. We wanted someone with a different energy, a different approach, and a more generalized way of thinking about journalism to help us grow rather than just keep replicating what we already do over and over.
I also want someone who thinks differently than me, Jeremy and Laura because that tension in differences of opinions is vital to avoid stagnation – not someone who would try to copy or endorse everything we do. John is nobody's lackey, and also has a demonstrated ability to attract large audiences and understands how journalism in the digital age works better than anyone else I talked to for this position.
Of course there were safer choices that would have instantly impressed people who use the obvious metrics to judge these things: "wow – they hired that person away from NBC News; that shows they're serious." I was much more interested in finding the person that I thought would bring what we really need than I was in impressing people with our ability to hire establishment editors. As always with criticisms, the only proof that matters is the journalism we produce; everything else is just chatter and speculation.
While I think Greenwald is a bit of a turd, I think his defense of John is spot on.