In the wake of his public split from Project Veritas, investigative reporter James O’Keefe has launched a new venture that aims to put the power of the media in the hands of everyday people.
The goal, he said, is to “decentralize” journalism.
“What if there was a way to empower and mobilize journalists, citizen journalists, and decentralize journalism—you know, in the same way that Uber did for the taxi?” O’Keefe asked The Epoch Times’ Senior Editor Jan Jekielek, host of American Thought Leaders, in a March 16 interview.
“What if there was a way to do that for thousands and thousands of people?” he wondered. “You might say, ‘Well, that’s impossible, that’s too difficult.’ Well, that’s the mission that I’m embarking upon. And I think that I have the ability to do that.”
O’Keefe launched his new media company, O’Keefe Media Group, on March 15, roughly three weeks after he was ousted from his position as board chairman and CEO at Project Veritas—the undercover journalism organization he founded in 2010—amid an investigation of his spending habits.
“When you’re really good at something, they’re going to try to tear you down,” O’Keefe said on Thursday. “Envy, resentment, ego, power, control, what have you. And I experienced that. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
“Ultimately, I think it’s a blessing because it taught me a lot and we got to … build something on a grander scale. It sort of liberated me to achieve the mission that I’ve always wanted to achieve, which is to decentralize and to build a vast army of citizen exposures.”
The Pfizer Exposé
O’Keefe explained that the idea for his new venture stemmed from his last major story with Project Veritas—an exposé in which a Pfizer executive was recorded stating that the drugmaker was “exploring” ways of mutating SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
O’Keefe revealed that Debbie Bernal, one of the two whistleblowers Project Veritas worked with on that story, was initially afraid to reveal her identity because she “doesn’t want to end up in a body bag.”
However, after witnessing what happened between O’Keefe and his former organization, Bernal decided to break her silence by joining him onstage at CPAC in Washington.
Since then, the journalist has made it his mission to find other concerned citizens like Bernal and “empower” them to record and report the truth.
“It’s one of the only hopes left in our society,” he added.
Building an Army
Under normal circumstances, building a thousands-strong army is no easy feat. Throw in the fact that the soldiers must—at least for now—be unpaid, and one might expect the wells of recruitment to run dry.
But such has not been the case for O’Keefe.
On the contrary, the journalist noted that his new company had already garnered the interest of an inbox full of would-be journalists—as well as a few thousand paid subscribers—just in the 24 hours since its launch.
“Most people are willing to do this for free,” he contended. “In fact, the people that are working with me for the last two weeks have worked for free. And some of us have maxed out our credit cards in order for us to get the company up and running, which we have.”
Essentially, O’Keefe’s plan is to equip citizen journalists with cameras so that they can record the corruption in their communities themselves. Those citizen journalists will be supported by an “in-house team of elite journalists” who will curate the content to ensure it is factually accurate and free of bias.
“You have to make sure that it’s done the right way—you’re not crossing any lines, you’re not filming people in their bedrooms. We don’t want that,” he noted. “So yeah, I think there’s going to be some obstacles and there’s going to be some hurdles, but none I don’t think we can overcome.”
And while he acknowledged that, at some point, the journalists would probably be paid, he cautioned, “You have to be careful there because when the incentive is to get paid, that can bastardize journalism.”
A ‘Pernicious Influence’
O’Keefe held that money—from advertising, in particular—has had a “pernicious influence” on the independence of investigative journalists.
“I think a journalist ought to give you the facts—and you give the facts without fear or without favor,” he noted. “So, if on my YouTube videos, at the very end, it says, ‘This was brought to you by Pfizer,’ … obviously, you’re going to go, ‘OK, that’s probably influencing his ability to be honest.’”
Contending that commercialism “will ultimately corrupt the essence of the craft of truth-seeking,” O’Keefe stressed that those who report the news must instead be driven by a sense of justice.
And while he added that he felt he had recently seen the impacts of allowing the “wrong” motivations to guide one’s reporting, the journalist said he preferred to focus on the positives—like the fact that thousands of others motivated by a desire for truth had chosen to join him on his new path to finding it.
“There’s so many of them—that’s really what I’ve learned. So, let’s harness that. And let’s equip them and decentralize journalism.”
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