Two-time Pulitzer Prize Winner Named Director of First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund and The Intercept’s National Security Columnist
NEW YORK, NY – August 14, 2017 – James Risen, the award-winning journalist and best-selling author, is joining First Look Media to play a unique dual leadership role. He will help defend threatened journalists and whistleblowers while also continuing to investigate and write about national security and other national and international issues for First Look’s investigative news organization, The Intercept.
Risen has been named the Director of First Look Media's Press Freedom Defense Fund, which supports journalists, filmmakers, whistleblowers and news organizations pursuing legal fights where a substantial public interest, freedom of the press, or related human and civil rights are at stake. Risen will also join The Intercept as Senior National Security Correspondent. Risen will write a reported column on national security and other national issues, as well as help lead investigative reporting projects at The Intercept.
Risen recently left the New York Times after nearly 20 years reporting on the most critical national security issues of our time, including the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq and the proliferation of abuses, such as unwarranted government surveillance and torture, in the guise of the global the war on terror. Risen won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his stories about the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program, and he was a member of the New York Times reporting team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for coverage of the September 11th attacks and terrorism.
Risen also waged a seven-year battle against the government, risking jail after first the Bush Administration and later the Obama Administration sought to force him to testify and reveal his confidential sources in a leak investigation. Risen never gave in, and the government finally backed down.
“There is no journalist better equipped to cover the national security scandals and abuses of the Trump era than Jim Risen,” said Intercept Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed. “In addition to his role spearheading our investigative national security coverage from Washington, Jim will write regular columns for The Intercept confronting, among other topics, the secretive machinations of the national security state and its lethal consequences at home and abroad. We’re honored and thrilled to have the country’s leading national security journalist bring his vast experience and vision to our team at this critical time.”
As director of First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund, a newly created role, Risen will help lead the organization as it seeks to provide assistance to journalists who face legal threats from the United States government or foreign governments for their work, as well as for whistleblowers who face legal threats when they are accused of talking to reporters. Recently, the Press Freedom Defense Fund announced its support for the legal defense of Reality Winner, accused of leaking a top-secret NSA document on Russian election hacking to The Intercept.
“I am incredibly excited by this amazing and unique opportunity to combine my journalism with efforts to defend press freedom,” said Risen. “I am honored to help lead the fund as both America and the world face unprecedented threats to freedom of the press, while also writing and reporting and helping Betsy Reed and her incredible team continue to turn The Intercept into one of the most important investigative reporting outlets in the nation.”
“We’re honored to have such a staunch press-freedom advocate serve as the guiding voice of our Press Freedom Defense Fund,” said Michael Bloom, President of First Look Media. “Jim is not only a respected journalist who was prepared to sacrifice his own freedom to protect a source, but a very real example of how the press can challenge those in power who misuse laws to fulfill a political agenda.”
Risen is a graduate of Brown University, where he majored in history. He also received a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He began his career as a reporter at The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, and later worked at The Miami Herald, The Detroit Free Press and The Los Angeles Times. He joined The New York Times in 1998, where he worked until earlier this summer. He is the author of four books: Wrath of Angels: The American Abortion War; The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown with the KGB; State of War, The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration; and Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War.
He will continue to be based in Washington, D.C., and will begin in September.
About The Intercept:
The Intercept, a publication of First Look Media, was launched in 2014 to provide an outlet for fearless, adversarial journalism. Our reporters have the editorial freedom to hold powerful institutions accountable, digging beneath the official lines to bring audiences the hidden truth. The Intercept’s award-winning coverage focuses on national security, politics, civil liberties, the environment, technology, criminal justice, media, and more. Regular contributors include co-founding editors Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill.
About First Look Media:
A bold, independent spirit defines everything we do at First Look Media – from journalism that holds the powerful accountable, to art and entertainment that shape our culture. Launched by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar, First Look Media is built on the belief that freedom of expression and of the press, diverse voices, and fiercely independent perspectives, are vital to a healthy democracy and a vibrant culture.