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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"

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 3, 2013 at 1:02PM

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. Deadline's Mike Fleming wrote a defense of Finke and posted a legal response. Monday morning Finke weighed in. "Just stop it!" she exhorted Waxman.
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Nikki Finke
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.


This article is related to: New Media, Variety


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.