Celebrity blogger gets taste of her own medicine in 'New Yorker' profile
Notorious Hollywood reporter accuses film industry of forcing weekly magazine to 'dumb-down' revelatory profile
Tuesday 06 October 2009
She is the most feared reporter in Hollywood, twisting arms and shouting threats as she goes about the daily business of exposing murky secrets about some of the film industry's leading power-brokers. But, as Nikki Finke has just discovered, power-brokers can sometimes strike back.
Ms Finke, the author of Deadline Hollywood – a notorious blog which does to entertainment executives and film stars what the late gossip columnist Nigel Dempster once did to minor royals – claimed yesterday that the film industry PR machine acted to dumb-down a revelatory profile of her in this week's New Yorker magazine.
In a strident article on her website, which is required reading in show-business circles, Ms Finke alleged that Universal, Warner Brothers and Dreamworks succeed in removing a selection of anecdotes about them from the 7,800-word article.
She further claimed that Brad Grey, the chief executive of Paramount, employed a PR company to spike every reference to him, and added that the notoriously-sensitive film mogul Harvey Weinstein had his description of Ms Finke altered: where he had once said she was a "cunt", the New Yorker article instead reported that he believed her to be a "jerk".
A further revelation, which sent cornflakes flying across some of LA's smartest breakfast tables, saw Ms Finke claim that representatives of the talent agencies William Morris and Endeavour, together with the film studio Summit also "had their way" with the Condé Nast title's piece, persuading author Tad Friend to soften its contents.
The controversy – about which The New Yorker declined to comment yesterday – is the latest chapter in a colourful career that has seen the doggedly-abrasive Ms Finke, 55, turn the website she runs from a small room at home into a new media phenomenon, which she sold for a reported $10m [£6.3m] this summer.
It began at 6.23am on Sunday, a few hours after the weekly magazine hit news-stands, when she added a lengthy post on her blog entitled "Hollywood manipulated The New Yorker". It described Mr Friend's piece as "a superficial clip-job" and "an amusing caricature, only occasionally true, but hardly insightful".
In truth, the article had painted a largely affectionate portrait of an eccentric-but-talented reporter. It highlighted, for example, how Ms Finke had successfully broken the cosy monopoly on film industry news, once enjoyed by established trade titles such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.
"She manages to seem ubiquitous, covering the golden acres from Santa Monica to Sunset-Gower from a home newsroom containing six phones, a laptop, and her cat, Blue," reads a typical pasage. "Her all-knowing voice on the phone is reminiscent of Charlie of Charlie's Angels ... yet she salts her site with references to her diabetes and dental work, drawing readers into the drama of her daily struggle."
At least some of Ms Finke's reservations about Mr Friend's piece may stem from its coverage of her reporting techniques. He accused her of sometimes altering stories on her blog that later turn out to be untrue, and of being manipulated by some lofty sources. In particular, he claimed, Ms Finke often presents breaking news in a manner that is helpful to people like the agents Ari Emanuel and Ron Meyer, and the producer David Geffen.
The article trawled through Ms Finke's privileged upbringing and disclosed that her career in mainstream news media was hampered by an apparent inability to meet deadlines. Most embarassingly, perhaps, it noted that her favourite film is the comedy Legally Blonde.
Ms Finke was standing by her allegations refarding the "manipulation" of the piece yesterday, saying she was briefed about it by staff at The New Yorker and the institutions involved, and has full details of what occurred.
Despite her reservations, the disputed article wasn't wholly without teeth. One passage saw her question the competence of Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal, and describe Charles and James Dolan, who own Cablevision, a "clown parade". Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Viacom was meanwhile dubbed a "crazy old coot".
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