Jeremy Scahill – Fearless journalism

With his personal style of reporting, Jeremy Scahill doesn’t try to hide his own point of view. ‘The thing that drives his reporting more than anything is the human element,’ says his colleague Glenn Greenwald.

Jeremy Scahill is featured in the film Dirty Wars, which is shown at the Movies that Matter Festival. We spoke to Glenn Greenwald, who works together with Scahill on  The Intercept, an online publication funded by Pierre Omidyar. The publication was created by Greenwald, Scahill and documentary maker Laura Poitras. What kind of a journalist is Scahill, in Greenwald’s opinion?

Jeremy Scahill is one of the two other journalists with whom you started The Intercept. Why him?

‘I think that he embodies the ethos of journalism that we are trying to create in its purest form – fearless journalism that is done without regard to who it alienates in terms of those who are in power, and that doesn’t depend on trying to get access to people in power.’

Would you call Mr Scahill a human rights activist?

‘He is first and foremost a journalist, but there is definitely a component of his work that is about activism for human rights.’

How has Mr Scahill inspired you? In what way have you become a better journalist from working with him?

‘One of the things that is most notable about Jeremy is his fearlessness. He has gone to the most dangerous places in the world in order to get the story that otherwise can’t be got. I learned from him that in order to be a good journalist you need to take risks and overcome your fears.’

What can be improved about his reporting?

‘He is really good at empathizing the people’s perspective. The danger of that is that if you become too emotional about the subject matter of your story, that emotion can distract people away from the journalism that you’re presenting. I think generally he controls that really well, but that’s probably his biggest challenge.’

In the documentary Dirty Wars, Scahill says: ‘I quickly discovered that the world of talk show television is less like a meeting place of ideas and more like a boxing ring.’ How does he manage to keep standing in that boxing ring?

‘He knows how to play the game. It’s important when you enter the cable news world to be extremely aware of its deep deficiencies, but at the same time how to play by its rules, so that you can exploit it the way that you want. He is really well-spoken, he knows how to speak in sound bites and he’s telegenic.’

By Peter Teffer