You know something's up when you wake up to Sunday morning email from Nikki Finke and the flack for The New Yorker, both flagging a story in the magazine that hits tomorrow. It's a profile by the magazine's Brooklyn-based L.A. specialist, Tad Friend, taking his turn at bat trying to get a hit off the Finke phenomenon. It recounts the scoops, the mis-scoops, the feuds, the sale, the missed deadlines, the health issues and the nutty but dogged Finke psyche, and portrays her as a Hollywood power uninhibited about favoring certain sources and trying to intimidate others.
A combination town crier and volcano god, Finke evokes in her readers both anxiety and respect. One top studio executive says, “Nikki’s blog you have to check, and the others you have to delete from your in-box. She’s very, very, very accurate, extraordinarily so—you have a supposedly private conversation with two other people, and it’s on her site within an hour....”
Finke’s code is the Hollywood code. She is for hard work, big box-office, stars who remain loyal to their agents and publicists, and the little guy—until, that is, the big guy chats her up. Then she’s for that big guy until some other big guy calls to stick it to the first big guy. And this, too, is the Hollywood code: relationships are paramount but provisional.
I found the piece more revealing than most about Finke, but — totally in character for her — she published an attack on Friend and the magazine at 6:23 this morning:
I'm too superficial to read The New Yorker because it's so unrelentingly boring. Even the cartoons suck these days.... The article is a superficial clip job, no better than David Carr's rushed Page One profile on me in The New York Times recently. As I expected, it's an amusing caricature, only occasionally true but hardly insightful. Still, I'm relieved that The New Yorker didn't lay a glove on me. I found Tad Friend, who covers Hollywood from Brooklyn, easy to manipulate, as was David Remnick, whom I enjoyed bitchslapping throughout but especially during the very slipshod factchecking process.
Remnick is the editor of The New Yorker. Finke isn't nearly done yet; her post titled Hollywood Manipulated the New Yorker goes on and gets reaction:
I wasn't the only one able to knock out a lot of negative stuff in the article without even one lawyer letter, email, or phone call. I witnessed how The New Yorker really bent over for Hollywood. NYC power publicist Steven Rubenstein succeeded in deleting every reference to Paramount's Brad Grey. Warner Bros and Universal and DreamWorks and William Morris/Endeavor and Summit Entertainment execs and flacks and consultants also had their way with the mag. (They were even laughing about it. When I asked one PR person what it took to convince Tad to take out whole portions of the article, the response was, "I swallowed.") At Harvey Weinstein's personal behest, his description of me as a "cunt" became "jerk".
Vintage Finke. The Nikki watchers are starting to weigh in — here's David Poland:
Tad Friend did okay.
He got a little farther than Carr. He did a lot better than LAT.
Really, it's a more accurate portrayal of Sharon Waxman's unearned and overwhelming arrogance than of Nikki.
Nikki's response is, in many ways, a better reflection of Nikki than the piece. She lies. She spins. She sells. She attacks The New Yorker for giving in to her and being too soft on her (even naming some of her keepers who also allegedly yelled their way out of harm's way) while also giddily noting that "act(ed) like a cunt" towards the editor to get what she wanted out to be out.
So very Nikki. This is why people admire and fear what she has become, but no one wants to wake up in the morning and BE Nikki.
Nothing yet from Waxman, that I could find. Here's Hollywood blogger Anne Thompson, who is mentioned in the story and who spoke with Friend:
It was clear to me that while [Friend is] an excellent reporter and writer, he writes his Letter from California as an outsider. He lives in New York. And he’s a relative Luddite as far as the Internet is concerned. Many folks I know talked to him. So I confess to being disappointed that the profile covers so much of the same ground already dug by the NYT’s David Carr and others...
[skip...including link to LA Observed]
Yes, Finke is powerful and effective in her Hollywood coverage. She’s got the town wired. People in the business use her while they are afraid of her. Clearly, many industry insiders were happy to give Friend on-the-record plaudits about Finke. As he admits, they could then go back and tell her. (And most people weren’t willing to say bad things on the record.)
But I don’t fathom why so many established reporters respect Finke’s version of journalism: her blogging is speedy, egocentric, biased, and not transparent. She doesn’t follow the rules these journalists abide by. Maybe they envy her.
Caricature: The New Yorker