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Fleming Steps Up to Improve Deadline, Split Year Between Two Coasts

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 9, 2013 at 2:18PM

As the negotiation for Nikki Finke's inevitable exit from her contract continues, it's significant that Deadline film editor Mike Fleming has announced, in an unusually lengthy 1583-word post, that he is stepping up to an enhanced L.A./N.Y. role as he divides his year between the two coasts, starting in November.
Nikki Finke
Jaime Hernandez, The New Yorker Nikki Finke

As the negotiation for Nikki Finke's inevitable exit from her contract continues, it's significant that Deadline film editor Mike Fleming has announced in an unusually lengthy 1583-word post that he is stepping up to an enhanced L.A./N.Y. role as he divides his year between the two coasts starting in November: 

The hope is to take as much ground as I can for Deadline Hollywood and help it continue to evolve. The tone and the urgency and irreverence of this site will always be trademarks of Nikki Finke ...but I am eager to see how I can do it better. I think Deadline is thriving despite a recent batch of articles implying otherwise, and it pisses me off when journalists cheap shot us.

There are several phases of the Deadline story. Nikki Finke, who as a journalist at print publications struggled with delivering copy on time, found her true metier at the L.A. Weekly with her influential blog Deadline, of which she wisely retained ownership. When her traffic was sizable enough, she found a buyer in PMC mogul Jay Penske and joined his growing online empire. With his resources behind Deadline, they poached top talent to join the staff, including Variety breaking news bloodhound Mike Fleming and THR TV reporter Nellie Andreeva, and added various editors and contributors such as awards columnist Pete Hammond. In that way Penske was able to leaven Finke's toxic snark with solid industry-friendly reporting against which, trade-style, you could sell ads, especially lucrative Oscar ads. Penske also added Awardsline, to sell even more ads in print.

When I worked at Variety the editors were horrified by Finke's growing clout and success, because she was able to post swiftly and opinionatedly without squadrons of copyeditors, editors and print production deadlines and costs. But the day that Penske bought Variety, and did not bring in Finke to run it, spelled her planned obsolescence at Deadline. He was ready to let her go. The blog could move on without her.

My take? For a long time Penske and Finke were making money and that was enough. But in the end, Penske couldn't bear up under the strain of having to deal with her every day. Not when he had an even bigger potential moneymaker in established brand Variety. And why bring Fleming to L.A.? To up his company town profile, and put him closer to Variety's current film czar,  his former Variety colleague Claudia Eller.

Finke has been alternating between saying she's on vacation and refusing to cover box office and insisting on covering box office.

This article is related to: Deadline, New Media & Technology

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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.