Media people

Q-A with Nikki Finke

PR Week quizzed the LA Weekly's Deadline Hollywood columnist about how she landed at an alternative weekly, what she thinks of other reporters on the entertainment beat, and how she deals with PR people. Excerpts:

• I've never experienced the thrilling kind of freedom that an alternative weekly gives me in terms of my opinions. I can write anything I want. I can say anything I want. I can take any stand I want. The controversy is encouraged, not discouraged. I always liked being provocative in my writing, but I get to take it to the nth degree at LA Weekly...

• I think Ron Grover at BusinessWeek is one of the best. But like everyone, he doesn't bat 100%, but I'd say he certainly gets 60%. I was very disappointed for years in Bruce Orwall's coverage of Disney in the Wall Street Journal, because it seemed to reflect almost exclusively Michael Eisner's point of view. And lo and behold, we find out during the trial in testimony that one of the only people Eisner spoke to all these years, and boasted about manipulating, was Bruce Orwall! That doesn't make Bruce a bad reporter, it just doesn't make what he wrote the truth. The Los Angeles Times has always confused me with their coverage. I don't regard saturation as satisfactory. Whereas the New York Times errs in too little coverage. My standard for this tends to be "Am I reading something that I wish I had written?" And the answer to that is "very, very infrequently."

• The minute you get them [PR reps] on the phone, you already have four strikes against you. That you exist on this planet, that you are daring to ask a question, that you're trying to write any kind of truthful story, and fourth, that you're a miserable human being, and part of a race of mankind who should be wiped off the face of the planet...They all think that their world is so impenetrable that you will never learn the truth. They don't begin to understand that with someone like me, my phone rings 20 times a day just with people in top positions giving me little morsels of who did what to whom, and how, and why. From their offices, their cars, their cell phones. That this kind of information is constantly being passed to me, and there's no way any corporate flack can hide it. What they should be trying to do is not lie or even deny, but mitigate.

• There is no adjective in the English language to describe dealing with Zenia Mucha at Disney. All of us journalists talk about it, all of us know about it, and it may very well be one reason why you've seen the articles you have about Disney in recent years.

Asked to name "the biggest jerk in Hollywood," she says Barry Diller: "Barry Diller can be somebody's absolute best friend. On the other hand, there are few people in the infotainment world who…treat so many people as if they're the stupidest person in the world."

Also: The Finke-obsessed FishbowlLA explains today, "Finke just might be the best and most eccentric journalist covering Hollywood right now. Would you rather read about boring, bad journalists, or weird, good journalists?"

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