Apr 24, 2019 - Economy & Business

Behind-the-scenes turmoil at Big Tech watchdog site The Markup

Ina Fried

The Markup, a well-funded journalism nonprofit launched last year to produce exposés of Big Tech's power, fired its editor-in-chief yesterday before it had published a single article. 5 of its newsroom of 7 quit in protest.

Backdrop: Julia Angwin, a Pulitzer-garlanded former ProPublica and Wall Street Journal reporter whose work has watchdogged Facebook and Google on issues like privacy and discrimination, had been The Markup's most prominent public face.

  • On Twitter, she attributed her ouster to a dispute with her co-founders, saying the site was shifting from data-driven investigation to advocacy.
  • Angwin also made her case in a letter to Craigslist founder and journalism philanthropist Craig Newmark, who has put $20 million into The Markup.

But, but, but: The Markup CEO Sue Gardner and Jeff Larson, Angwin's former reporting partner, disputed that account and said, in statements to the New York Times and on Twitter, that the nonprofit's mission hadn't changed at all.

  • Newmark said he was aware of the developments but declined to share his view on the matter.
  • "Ethically I am obliged to keep my mouth shut," he told Axios after the Center for Humane Technology event in San Francisco.

Why it matters: Investigative journalism remains an endangered species, and the tech industry could use more of it. The Markup had outlined a creative data-journalism strategy of pairing reporters with coders to come up with new ways to test hypotheses about tech platforms. That's still a worthy undertaking.

Go deeper: Craigslist founder puts another $15 million into journalism efforts

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