Variety Slams Bloggers

Today, Variety is taking potshots at the industry bloggers who, over the last year or two, have made the daily trade magazine irrelevant and, worse, revealed how beholden it is to the studios and networks it fails to objectively cover.

Sadly, all Variety is showing with their pitiful whining, and their desperate plea to still be taken seriously, is how right the bloggers are. They are particularly bitter about how Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily frequently breaks stories that Variety either didn't notice, failed to cover, got wrong, or completely hushed-up. Variety is trying to make the case that bloggers are reckless and mean, Finke in particular. Cynthia Littleton reports about one dust-up as an example:

Nothing is too minor or petty to spark a verbal fusillade. And next to bashing their own kind, there's nothing Web newsies likes better than hammering the veracity and integrity of the traditional media. Variety has certainly found itself in the crosshairs, as have the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, among others.

On March 11, Finke posted an item saying Summit Entertainment was eyeing Juan Antonio Bayona to direct "Eclipse," the third installment of its "Twilight" vampire pics.Variety got an off the record confirmation of the deal, and reported it in a story that ran only online.

March 12: Goldstein, in the L.A. Times' Big Picture blog, debunked the Bayona hiring. Goldstein quoted his lunch partner of that day, Summit president of production Erik Feig, as denying that anyone had been hired to direct "Eclipse."

Goldstein's post took Finke and Variety to task, alleging the stories ran without getting confirmation the story.

Finke's response to Goldstein was swift, even demanding an apology from Feig. Shortly before 10 p.m. that night, her update featured Feig claiming to have been misquoted by Goldstein, at least according to Finke. 

March 13: Goldstein responds with a post saying that he and Feig had been "bludgeoned" by Finke, and he even linked to another blogger's take on the Finke vs. Goldstein spat.
March 15: Goldstein added a "Sunday update" that quoted Feig giving a mea culpa to Finke, after which Goldstein took yet another swipe at Variety for supposed journalistic recklessness.

So, in other words, Finke was right, the LA Times was wrong. So what point, exactly, was Variety trying to make?
In another Variety story, Michael Fleming recounts this anecdote:

A little over a year ago, I found out Brad Pitt might fall out of Universal's "State of Play." The studio's toppers argued that a Variety story would cement his exit. They asked for a couple of days to let it play out, a request that seemed reasonable. Days later, broke Pitt's exit. (Later that day, Deadline Hollywood Daily wrote about my sitting on the story and cited it as proof Variety was in the pockets of the studios.)

In other words, Finke was right. Fleming sat on the story because the studio asked him to. He put their business/PR interests above his responsibility to report news. He cow-towed to an advertiser. The only point Fleming is making here is how compromised Variety's reporting has truly become (which was obvious to anyone who read the trades during the Writers Strike).

I think the Daily Beast sums it up best:

This weekend, Variety launched an extraordinary three-part attack that was ostensibly aimed at blogging in general but clearly was aimed at one influential online journalist in particular.[…]Thanks in part to a loyal cadre of sources and to the enormous vacuum she filled during the writers’ strike, Finke’s column has become a must-read in Hollywood. And clearly, Variety’s Bart cannot take it anymore.[…]The fact is Variety—like the Los Angeles Times (which has also taken an increasing number of shots at Finke lately)—too often lags behind the news. How is it possible, to pick just two easy examples, that both well-staffed institutions missed the Silverman-to-NBC story and the Chernin-is-out story? Perhaps, as they claim, they’re handicapped by their desire to verify information before slapping it up on the web. But maintaining a high journalistic standard hardly explains the type of anemic coverage too-often found, or not found, on the pages of either Variety or the Times. Bart’s attack—indeed the whole whiny Variety package—sounds too much like the enraged cry of an old-media dinosaur trying to defend what’s left of its terrain.

(Hat-tip to Denis McGrath for leading me to the Daily Beast post)

UPDATE:  Nikki Finke is reporting today that Daily Variety's publisher Neil Stiles made overtures to buy her out on February 27 and bring her into their fold. The deal didn't happen. 

Stiles admitted that his company had done a survey only to find that DHD was a bigger showbiz destination site on the Internet than Variety. He also noted that Variety was embarrassed when the trade publication missed the Peter-Chernin-resigning-from-News Corp story which I had broken a few days earlier. (It took Variety several hours to get online with a matching story…) Stiles' idea was that I would remain independent, but Variety would own DHD and link to my scoops, etc.[…]

She reports that Bart wasn't consulted about the offer and was furious when he found out, immediately ordering not one, but three articles trashing her. How embarrassing…for Variety.

10 thoughts on “Variety Slams Bloggers”

  1. The Daily Beast has some unflattering things to say about Nikki Finke, too. She breaks stories, but she also reveals some of the major flaws of this type of blog journalism — in addition to which, she verges on the insufferable. But her column is often worth reading, which Variety seldom is.

  2. This is fairly amusing. More than once, Variety and HR have cribbed from a blog of fan site like Latino Review and failed to aknowledge it.
    When most others run with a story that V or HR broke, a link and/or credit is given.

  3. Scott,
    Um, no. Here is what Finke wrote:
    “I can confirm that Summit Entertainment is telling Hollywood privately that Juan Antonio Bayona will direct Eclipse. I’m not saying he’s been offered the job or hired, which in Hollywood involves deal memos, signed contracts, and the like. Just that the studio execs Wednesday night passed the word he’s their guy. It’s a very out-of-the-box choice for the 3rd movie in the “Twilight Saga” series of Stephenie Meyer vampire novels being hurried to the big screen by the start-up studio.”

  4. Ok, this must be because I am not from Hollywood and am unfamiliar with the terminology. She says he has been picked to direct, and that Summit is telling Hollywood that he will be directing Eclipse. So how does that mean that he hasnt been hired or even offered the job.
    I am not being sarcastic or anything, I read that and to me, that sounds like he has been hired when Feig makes it clear he has not been.

  5. Scott: Please read the quote Lee provided again. You will find this phrase: “I’m not saying he’s been offered the job or hired.” That pretty directly refutes your insistence that Finke claimed that Bayona had been hired.

  6. Interesting. This sort of thing happens a lot. A fresh, new, young start-up begins successfully competing against the tired, conventional, old-thinking companies in the business. And then the old companies want to buy out the start-up.
    Take IBM. In Toronto, in the early ’90’s, a software firm wrote a program for Trust Companies to enable them to administer retirement account deposits. IBM bought the company for $25M and sold it all over the world, earning huge profits. They have the world-wide marketing infrastructure in place to do what the start-up could not.
    Take Valero. It’s the largest oil refining company in the States. Ethanol is on its way to replacing gasoline/oil. So Valero bought up five or six ethanol plants from VeraSun, which had gone bankrupt after locking in corn at the whopping price of $7 per bushel.
    Nikki Finke. She is the fresh, new, nimble, agile start-up beating the tired, old, business-as-usual boys. So how should she let it play out? If she wants to earn a big up-front paycheck, she could sell her website and run it for Variety. If she wants to be a force in the business, she could negotiate to run Variety, herself, and maybe get some stock options. She has a window of opportunity to cash in. For if she does neither, but carries on as a small independent, it is likely that her competitive position will not last, although she’ll be having a good time doing her thing.
    Me. I always thought the programmer that sold his program to IBM came out ahead. But he also might have done better if he had run the unit for them as one of their execs.

  7. @Lawrence: You have missed my point. I did read that line, but how do you square that with the headline, which is “SUMMIT PICKS BAYONA TO DIRECT TWILIGHT THREEQUEL ECLIPSE” and that Summit is telling Hollywood privately that Bayona will direct. Again, I am asking, how can you say that he has been picked, and tell everyone he has been picked, and then say in the next sentence he hasnt been offered the job?

  8. You’re at the restaurant. You look at the menu, and tell your dining companion “I’m gonna have the salmon”. You’ve picked the salmon. You haven’t bought the salmon, haven’t even ordered it yet — for all you know, the waiter will say “sorry, it’s off”. But you picked.
    Really, I don’t see what’s so confusing.


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