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Finke Poaches Variety Scoop-King Fleming

by Anne Thompson
January 11, 2010 4:31 AM
7 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

As Variety hides behind a pay wall in a misguided attempt to salvage its outdated print model, Jay Penske-owned Deadline/Hollywood has poached Variety's biggest breaking news hound, Mike Fleming, to run the new Deadline/New York.

It's a smart hire. (And it cost Penske serious bucks. Fleming is well-paid.)

Over two decades Fleming has built a network of sources who go to him with scoops because they trust him to take care of them. He is the exact opposite of DH's Nikki Finke, who uses scare tactics and bullying as well as good old-fashioned power-mongering to get her stories.

Full news release is on jump.

Finke needs ads for her site, which can be toxic. Fleming could provide a leavening influence. Problem is, he's not a prolific blogger. He's a daily newsman. Whether he and she can get along is another matter. Finke does not play well with others. Also, while DH is building back its traffic, adding personnel adds overhead.

But this is a terrible deadly blow to Variety, which relies on Fleming's scoops, and needs premium content to lure people to pay its steep $248 annual subscription fee (and puts people off by demanding laborious access codes). I hear Variety was stunned by Fleming's news, which can be read as a vote of no-confidence in the paper. The New York-based reporter shares a blog with ex-Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart, who doesn't file items that often. What Variety plans to do with its blogs behind a pay wall is another mystery, as the whole point of blogs is to spread Variety content out into the web.

Meanwhile a slew of ex-Variety reporters are competing with their former employer, from Joe Adalian at The Wrap to Ben Fritz at the LAT-- not to mention me.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VARIETY'S PREEMINENT JOURNALIST MIKE FLEMING TO EDIT DEADLINE|NEWYORK

LOS ANGELES – January 10, 2010 – Deadline.com is going bicoastal. Mail.com Media Corporation (MMC)’s Jay Penske and Deadline.com’s Nikki Finke today announced the hiring of Mike Fleming, the 20-year Variety superstar who has been praised as the "top media dog" covering Hollywood because of his wide and deep network of entertainment business sources. Effective immediately, he becomes the Editor of the new Deadline|NewYork which will go live later this month at Deadline.com. Besides covering film and television dealmaking and production and casting, Fleming intends to expand his turf by breaking news and offering analysis about books, media, TV news, theater, and other Gotham-based infotainment arenas.

With the hiring of top journalism talents Mike Fleming to run Deadline|NewYork, and Tim Adler to run Deadline|London (announced this morning), Deadline.com now enters its next phase of editorial and geographic expansion. Finke will remain Deadline.com's general manager and editor in chief, and editor and founder of Deadline|Hollywood. But Fleming's ability to consistently deliver high-profile scoops and provide on-the-spot analysis will help make Deadline.com a “must-read” for influencers and leaders in the global business of entertainment and media.

Variety's preeminent reporter also fits perfectly with the Deadline.com tradition of shattering the mold of traditional reporting and creating a new paradigm for delivering news, analysis, and opinion with New Media immediacy. Hiring Variety's "crown jewel" of original content demonstrates MMC's commitment to rapid growth as one of the most dynamic companies to watch in the digital media arena.

"Deadline.com remains one of our top priorities at MMC, and we think Mike is exactly the right person to take this property to the next level," commented MMC Founder and CEO, Jay Penske. "He's done so much in his career, and in the trades no one has been more prolific at breaking news. With Mike leading New York, our Deadline.com business holds almost limitless potential."

Said Finke: “I am thrilled and honored that a big brand like Mike Fleming with a huge following is joining Deadline.com. Few people know that Mike and I, while fierce competitors, also have been friends for close to 20 years. I was a devoted reader of his old 'Buzz' column for Weekly Variety, and then addicted to his former 'Dish' column for Daily Variety. I know that Deadline|NewYork will become a great showcase for Mike's expert knowledge of the entertainment business, and even more so for his warm and witty personality. People will now get to experience the real Mike!"

Said Fleming: “I treasure my 20 years with Variety and my mentor Peter Bart and my editor Tim Gray. It changed my life. But the time has come for this new challenge. I thank my Variety readers for staying with me all this time, and I hope they follow me to Deadline|NewYork.”

This month marks Mike Fleming's 20th year as a Variety reporter and writer. A native of New York City and now resident of Long Island, he started in journalism as editor of the well-known Media Industry Newsletter (MIN), then joined New York Newsday as a columnist and reviewer and entertainment writer in 1986. He joined Weekly Variety in 2000 to write the "Buzz" column about all things infotainment. Later, he took over Daily Variety's "Dish" column where he regularly broke news and provided analysis about all things Hollywood. After the column was discontinued, Fleming became even more recognized as the trade's No. 1 film reporter whose major talents include working sources and writing with flair and accuracy. That's why his original content receives international attention and acclaim. In summer 2009, he began the "BFD" blog with his longtime mentor Peter Bart.

Fleming also is an author. In 1999, Doubleday published his non-fiction book about The Three Stooges, From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons, which ABC turned into a telepic executive produced by Mel Gibson (who wrote a forward to the book) and Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. Fleming also has freelanced for many national magazines, including Playboy, Details, TV Guide, and Esquire. He turns 50 this April.

UPDATE: Here's a sample of the respect Finke once paid to her arch-rival Fleming:

(Un)Trustworthy Trades: Rumor-Monger
By Nikki Finke | Category: Trades | Sunday April 19, 2009 @ 3:56pm

What a hypocrite. After Variety's Mike Fleming recently and unfairly
criticized blogs for even once reporting a rumor, he today did just
that. He posted how there was a "rumor" that film label Fox Atomic may
be closing and admitted he didn't have even a single source to
confirm or deny it. Variety even emailed an alert about the rumor. I
heard this same rumor on Friday and didn't post -- and I won't until
somebody high up confirms or denies it -- because it would panic the
people who work there. As a Fox exec tells me: "Shitty to report
rumors when no one has been told." All I can surmise is that Fleming
and his (un)trustworthy trade must be desperate to get noticed.


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7 Comments

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  • nikkifinkle's bro | January 14, 2010 5:48 AMReply

    i read deadline for the news, but man, that nikki chick is one nasty broad. seriously, someone needs to get laid more often.

  • Frances Willington | January 11, 2010 9:36 AMReply

    You are so right about Variety's out of date print edtion, especially the weekly issues, to whichI havebeen a subscriber for years. BUT I am not renewing this year. they are expensive, but worst of all they are one of the added causes of tress being cut down. When I can read exactly the same news in D~eadline.... why bother wiht out of date print issues.

    To make matters worse they don;t always arrive in the mail box, if you liv ein europe as I do, until they are 3/4 weeks out of date.

  • Harry & Sally | January 11, 2010 8:50 AMReply

    I keep waiting for SOMEONE to notice that, no matter who wrote the story, the byline goes to Nikki Finke. Very interesting interview last week of Ed Bernero done by Haithman, but there at the top it reads "By Nikki Finke."

  • just one opinion | January 11, 2010 6:44 AMReply

    Not a good sign at all for Variety, but I can't really blame Fleming for wanting to write for a site where people will actually read him. If a reporter gets a scoop and nobody can get past the pay wall, does it make a sound?

    I think Variety is still a quality publication, and I read it when it's around, but if they really want people to pay that much just for website access, they need to provide content that's really special -- not just the same old stuff they used to have for free. They need to be the Wall St. Journal of the entertainment industry, and frankly, they're nowhere close, and getting colder.

  • Confused | January 11, 2010 6:33 AMReply

    Fleming was passed on two times to succeed Bart, as he claims he had been promised. His move to work under Nikki is a step down, a job so beneath him -- especially when he only ever had ill words about her. Those in the business that went to Fleming to print their stories knew he was soft and would do pretty much write exactly as they wanted; not sure how those "sources" will look to him now or how he will work under someone he despises. Interesting. One things for sure, it will be fun to watch play out.

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