For his Monday media column in the New York Times, David Carr pondered last week's report by Sharon Waxman and The Wrap that Nikki Finke had been fired from her own website, and the seeming truth that Finke is still posting away for Deadline. Then he sent Finke an email, absorbed fifteen minutes of Finkean abuse "over a four-year-old story she didn’t like," and heard an earful about Finke's frustrations with her boss, Jay Penske, and about Waxman's story being wrong. He also found out that Finke's contract with Penske runs through 2016 and has an an out for her next year. Remember, in the Penske company's non-denial denial of Waxman's contention that Finke is out, the flack's warmest words for Finke were: "Nikki Finke has a multi-year contract with the Company, and it is the Company’s absolute intention to continue its obligations under the agreement."
Carr's conclusion: "If it is true that people get the government they deserve, then many industries get the media coverage they merit as well. Regardless of her base of operations, Hollywood deserves Nikki Finke." She tells Carr, according to the story, that her compensation is more than $1 million a year.
The news was not followed by the sound of Champagne corks popping in the executive suites Ms. Finke had routinely terrorized for one simple reason: it did not turn out to be true. Ms. Waxman, perhaps driven by wish fulfillment, wrote beyond the facts at hand.
Still, the town is enjoying the moment, watching a knife fight between two industry observers and former pals who clearly can’t stand each other. Ms. Finke has the upper hand, with a closely followed site and a long reputation for breaking important industry news, while Ms. Waxman, whose site has struggled, is clearly punching up.
Ms. Waxman’s decision to begin publishing The Wrap in 2009, with backing from Howard Schultz, the chief executive of Starbucks, was viewed by Ms. Finke as an act of betrayal. The sniping has been remarkable, even by Hollywood standards, but the story of Ms. Finke being fired represented a huge escalation....
Ms. Finke is erratic but very effective, using old-school tactics to power a new media enterprise. She and her reporters are direct in telling their sources that if scoops go to competitors, a price will be paid...As one who sometimes wore out her welcome in mainstream media — she has worked at The Associated Press, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times and New York Magazine — Ms. Finke found her métier on the Web, where sourcing standards are often thin or nonexistent and the prosecution of journalism is a far less mannered affair.
Ms. Waxman said the story just hasn’t come true ... yet.
“I absolutely stand behind the story, and if facts change I will report them as they occur,” she said....
In our conversation, it was clear that Ms. Waxman, who has worked as a reporter at The Washington Post and The New York Times, was also enjoying being in the middle of things, even if the story that made it possible refuses to come true.
Carr's juicy observation about Finke and Deadline is that while she uses her site to get revenge on Hollywood figures to provide information to competitors such as The Wrap, Hollywood uses Finke's Deadline to stab rivals in the back. "Absent that venal ecosystem, Ms. Finke would be just one more rage-aholic with a modem," Carr writes. "But she prospers by exploiting a narcissistic industry that lives on fear and self-preservation."
As of tonight, by the way, the lead item in Waxman's standing column at The Wrap is still that Nikki Finke has been fired.