In a startling post tonight Deadline.com, Nikki Finke's right-hand editor on the site, respected Hollywood trades veteran Michael Fleming, calls out Finke for turning her feud with owner Jay Penske into a "public spectacle" and says the staff has taken the high ground while she had lobbed "these ridiculous barbs." Now it's time to respond, Fleming writes. He refutes several claims Finke has made in recent days — about her workload and the allegation that that Penske has made her stop telling the truth about Hollywood, especially — and says the staff has kept Deadline going while Finke has been sitting in Hawaii for five months doing box office stories. Fleming confirms that her access has been limited to filing and editing her own stories, and says that Deadline has taken back the Twitter feed where she used to post her items. "We are trying to strip away the distractions and diversions that have gotten between her doing what she does best, which is filing provocative copy like the Jeff Robinov scoop earlier today," Fleming wrote.
Fleming goes on to reveal inside laundry:
When I left Variety to come to Deadline, and Nellie Andreeva joined from THR, Deadline Hollywood was more a guilty pleasure than a business. I’m told by the money guys here that back then, the site generated less than $100,000 in ad revenues. We are on course to exceed $10 million this year. That makes our profit margins demonstrably higher than our rivals, and because we run a lean and mean operation that is dependent upon everyone doing their share. In the early days, Nellie, Nikki and I would play a daily game of can you top this, breaking story after story and establishing Deadline Hollywood as the destination site. The difference between then and now? Her filing has been down, aside from the box office report she writes each weekend. She has blamed that on what she said is her being forced to work 23 out of 24 hours on administrative tasks. None of us can figure out precisely what those were, and the company has seen to it that it has been removed.
She says on Twitter that she can’t wait to tell the truth about Hollywood. Nobody ever wanted her to stop doing that here. We want the old Nikki Finke back. If she returns—she is under contract until 2016—we will welcome her with open arms. If she doesn’t, we will survive, knowing in our hearts that she is miscast as the victim in this drama.
The final blow to Finke's ego, possibly, is that while they miss her and want her back posting on the site, Fleming says that traffic has continued to grow without her. Deadline turned off comments on the post, which is unusual for them — I don't see the site often enough to know if it is unprecedented.
Deadline's tweet of the post is all PR speak and less harsh than the actual content:
Fleming On Deadline’s Efforts To Restore Nikki Finke’s Game-Changing Writer Voice http://t.co/dDuRsa5eDd— Deadline Hollywood (@Deadline) October 26, 2013
Finke's tweets through the day have evolved in tone, from defiance earlier to almost conciliatory — almost — in the wake of her friend Fleming's post about her.
I have been locked out of the Deadline Hollywood website which I founded 7 1/2 years ago. Jay Penske gave the order. Not even the staff knew— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) October 25, 2013
I now only have very limited access inside the Deadline website's admin after 7 1/2 years of full access. What a very sad day.— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) October 25, 2013
For weeks now Jay Penske pledged to me he would wage 'nuclear war' on me unless I obeyed him and stayed at Deadline. He started it Wednesday— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) October 25, 2013
I'm going to try to resume my box office story. But there's all sorts of alerts showing that Tech staff are inside my story. Hmm.— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) October 25, 2013
I actually had to go to the Deadline website home page and see if I was still listed as Editor in Chief and Founder.— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) October 25, 2013
Interesting. I am no longer locked out of Deadline and my stories no longer going to Trash. I assume Penske now wants clean hands.— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) October 26, 2013
Penske parent company now deleting comments to my stories. At least 93 comments in support of me have suddenly disappeared in minutes.— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) October 26, 2013
I love Mike. I love Nellie I love the DH team. But I'm fed up with Jay Penske ignoring our website's need for more resources and staff.— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) October 26, 2013
And some much needed perspective:
In 2011, HBO passed on a drama w/ Diane Keaton about a Nikki Finke-like blogger. Moment of silence for how much fun season 3 would've been.— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) October 25, 2013