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Variety Ditches Leo Wolinsky: Littleton Next Up?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 1, 2010 at 11:54AM

Perception often becomes reality. When Variety Group Editor Tim Gray hired ex-LA Times editor Leo Wolinsky last December as the new editor of Daily Variety, it sent a message that Gray may not have intended. Veteran. Old-fashioned. Newspaper man. During these trying times for trade publications, Gray's oft-repeated goal has been to solidify Variety's sterling reputation as the trade paper of record. Breaking the news, the mantra goes, is less important than getting it right.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Perception often becomes reality. When Variety Group Editor Tim Gray hired ex-LA Times editor Leo Wolinsky last December as the new editor of Daily Variety, it sent a message that Gray may not have intended. Veteran. Old-fashioned. Newspaper man. During these trying times for trade publications, Gray's oft-repeated goal has been to solidify Variety's sterling reputation as the trade paper of record. Breaking the news, the mantra goes, is less important than getting it right.

While this approach may make studio advertisers, execs and press reps happy, it's less admirable than risky. Caution is not a virtue in the 24/7 breaking news world. Now Variety is forcing out Wolinsky, reports the NYT. While behind-the-wall Variety continues to look like yesterday's news with its print daily and weekly editions, online trades The Wrap, indieWIRE and Deadline are aggressively chasing and breaking news via email alerts and tweets. And Janice Min's new Hollywood Reporter published its last print daily Friday; its new fat glossy weekly hits newsstands and industry desks on Wednesday. Whether this expensive gamble wins or loses, it will certainly be the talk of the town.

Which is something Variety needs to become real soon---before it's too late. Word from Variety insiders: Wolinsky was never a good fit. He never made the transition from the glory days of the fatter Los Angeles Times, especially at a time when a contracting newsroom required rolling up your sleeves and doing 20 things at once. Why didn't Gray just promote the best talent in the newsroom, executive news editor Cynthia Littleton, who Peter Bart had poached from The Hollywood Reporter? I hope for his sake that Gray doesn't make the same mistake twice.

Here's The Wrap's take. And L.A. Observed.

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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.