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Deadline: Where There's Smoke There's Fire UPDATED "He knows I'm a bitch, that's why he bought me"

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by Anne Thompson
June 3, 2013 1:02 PM
9 Comments
  • |
Jaime Hernandez, The New Yorker Nikki Finke

There are some wisps of truth in Sharon Waxman's breathless Sunday announcement that Jay Penske has fired Nikki Finke from Deadline Hollywood. But Deadline owner Jay Penske told Waxman that her report was full of errors. And Deadline's Mike Fleming wrote an initial defense of Finke (which has since been revised) and posted a legal response.

UPDATE: Monday morning Finke weighed in. "Just stop it!" she exhorted Waxman. (The two former pals have been squabbling for years.) Finke supplies the transcript of her email exchange with UTA over losing a Deadline scoop to The Hollywood Reporter (which only made THR's and Gawker's day). As for Penske, Finke writes: "He knows I’m a bitch. That’s why he bought me."

As long as Deadline was making incredible amounts of money, Finke could write her own ticket. It still is. But so is Penske's beefed-up Variety, whose weekly print edition can score even more cash.

Finke has been unhappy since Penske purchased Variety but did not allow her any role there. (The acquisition deal reportedly included a clause that Finke would not work there for a year.) The real issue is Finke's Deadline contract with Penske Media, which comes up next year. It's not so much a question of Penske firing Finke. It's a question of his renewing her. If their talks break down and she leaves--she could take advantage of a window of opportunity this month, reports the LA Times, to leave a year ahead of time-- as I understand it the name Deadline goes with her. But the other Deadline employees are Penske's. 

Penske and Finke did a good job of hiring Deadline's scoop reporters: Fleming and TV staffer Nellie Andreeva. Awards analysts Pete Hammond and business editor David Lieberman are also solid contributors. They have all been running with the ball.

But Finke is a pain in the ass for anyone to work with day in and day out, and Penske bears the brunt of that. He's an astute businessman. And she has made him money. The question is what she adds to the equation at this point if he can make money without her.  I'm curious to see how this plays out.

UPDATE: Now the reaction is pouring in. LA Observed's Kevin Roderick has a take. And Buzzfeed defends Finke for changing--and speeding up-- new media journalism.


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More: New Media, Variety

9 Comments

  • Jean-Michel Bergeron | June 3, 2013 9:38 PMReply

    WHO CARES?

  • cadavra | June 3, 2013 7:15 PMReply

    Finke's rise was largely a direct result of Variety's installation of a paywall; she became the de facto first choice for news. Now that Variety is "free" again, the main reason to go there is her snarky commentary, which is tiresome. (Why does she suffer through the Oscars, Globes and Tonys every year if she hates them so much?) The trolls will follow her if she leaves, the rest of us don't care, and Pete, Nellie, Mike and the others will be absorbed into Variety, which is where they belong anyway.

  • Pritchard Tarle | June 3, 2013 5:43 PMReply

    Anne -- c'mon -- I highly, highly doubt Variety is making any money at this point. Its website is a mess --- what's it all about Variety? The lead story currently is "Disneyland Increases Prices" -- cmon!!! Comb through their weekly and it's filled with nonsensical pages. Compare that to its Ad pages, and it appears as though every issue of Variety is losing money. Are there subscriptions suddenly up?

  • Brian | June 3, 2013 1:46 PMReply

    Who's Nikki Finke?

  • Finskee | June 3, 2013 1:33 PMReply

    Finke replaced Ebert in terms of serious movie journalism influence...and that's just %^#@*&^ sad for our culture.

  • rgm | June 3, 2013 1:14 PMReply

    I once read about a clause in the Penske Variety purchase that prohibits Finke from joining Variety for at least a year. Can anyone verify?

  • Alison Wonderland | June 3, 2013 12:07 PMReply

    Anne, you know that Deadline without Nikki Finke is no different than THR or the new online Variety. She may have been MIA a lot this last year, leaving most of the reporting to Fleming and Andreeva, but the following the site has was built on her back. If Nikki leaves, her readers will just follow her poison pen to whatever new site she creates where she will find an even more determined Finke who will decimate the coverage on her former site, the same way she attacked Variety and THR. As opposed to times past when a journalist needed a newspaper so they could have a platform for their reporting, today all they need is a domain name and $9.95 to set up a site. Though some may be dancing with glee over her possible demise (ie, Sharon Waxman), to paraphrase Mark Twain, The rumors of her death may have been greatly exaggerated.

  • Anne Thompson | June 3, 2013 4:02 AMReply

    Just a misspelled wisp. Thanks.

  • Mike | June 3, 2013 2:34 AMReply

    I know I'm being a pedant, but what's a 'whisp'?

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