January 17, 2010

JOURNALISM WATCH: THE CASE AGAINST NIKKI FINKE AND DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD

As real journalism was strangled on its deathbed, choking and giving up one last gasp while soiling the sheets, something else rose up and started to pretend it was different. The blogger. Oh dear, I blog, so I must be one of them. No, I'm not. As you can see by the fact that I have no comment function on this blog, I am not so much interested in engaging in a discourse, foster a community, begin a cult or do whatever it is that other bloggers do.

I'm writing this primarily for myself, and if somebody is interested in what I think, they can read it, if not... well, it does me no harm. It's here for me to sometimes think out aloud about certain... things that happen in the real world. Or to sometimes, though not very often, point out the glaring lies that nobody else appears to bother to look at, simply by remembering things, then researching them, then analysing them. You know, do what I used to do when I was still a journalist.

This is one of those times.

Nikki Finke is one of those internet personalities that sometimes get washed up on the shore, usually as they do something controversial that gets picked up by the bigger media, which then in turn brings customers to their site and makes them relevant beyond the point of relevance they actually should have. In Finke's case, one might argue, that point came during the writer's strike (hey, how did that go, by the way?)... and then, in a secondary wave, when the divine fuck-up of all self-serving lia... uh, bloggers, the guy named Matt Drudge, started to link to her, bringing in a lot of clicks and even more right-wing retarded comments than the second coming of Jesus on a white horse with a flaming sword.

Deadline: Hollywood has been one of those sites that I enjoyed going onto since that writer's strike, deluding myself that, hey, maybe this is one chick who speaks truth to power, but over the past year or so, I noticed more and more how things were altered, changed without the acknowledgement of such change in the articles, and I began to click on certain items more than once during the day, to see not only that there were new paragraphs added under UPDATE, but also that more often than not entire sentences or paragraphs were edited away or had been significantly altered.

At first, I thought, well, Thomas, your memory must be playing tricks on you. After all, you ain't getting younger, that pain in the shoulder is getting worse, and you do have to get up numerous times during the night to take a whizz, all of which are signs that I'm getting closer to middle-age than I care to admit.

But exactly one week ago, you know, amidst all of the roaring around Leno/O'Brien/Who gives a fuck? I read the following PR release on her site, and something rubbed me the wrong way, totally the wrong way. And since Ms. Finke is ... habitually changing shit on her site to suit her truthiness needs, I did a little screenshot of it, here we go...



Now, I read a lot during the day, and a lot of what I read gets stored somewhere in the basement of my mind, and most of that isn't even stored alphabetically or in accordance to any relevance other than can I use this to write something? Is this a story I'd like to tell? Or what the hell just happened there? But most things go into the basement, never to be seen again (although they do come out and haunt me during a nightmare here or there, every now and then). But this one here, this one made something way, way in the back of my mind go ARROOOOOOOGA! ARRROOOOOOOGA!

The screenshot up there is merely for evidence purposes, the actual quotes from the PR release I am interested in are these...
Deadline.com now enters its next phase of editorial and geographic expansion. Finke will remain Deadline.com's general manager and editor in chief, and editor and founder of Deadline|Hollywood. But Fleming's ability to consistently deliver high-profile scoops and provide on-the-spot analysis will help make Deadline.com a “must-read” for influencers and leaders in the global business of entertainment and media. Variety's preeminent reporter also fits perfectly with the Deadline.com tradition of shattering the mold of traditional reporting and creating a new paradigm for delivering news, analysis, and opinion with New Media immediacy. Hiring Variety's "crown jewel" of original content demonstrates MMC's commitment to rapid growth as one of the most dynamic companies to watch in the digital media arena... Said Finke: “I am thrilled and honored that a big brand like Mike Fleming with a huge following is joining Deadline.com. Few people know that Mike and I, while fierce competitors, also have been friends for close to 20 years. I was a devoted reader of his old 'Buzz' column for Weekly Variety, and then addicted to his former 'Dish' column for Daily Variety. I know that Deadline|NewYork will become a great showcase for Mike's expert knowledge of the entertainment business, and even more so for his warm and witty personality. People will now get to experience the real Mike!"
Now, just wait a minute. Mike Fleming? Where have I heard that one before? Oh yeah, that's right, in an angry huff(ington post) published by dear Ms. Finke on March 23, 2009. Again, I shall provide a screenshot of the relevant portion...



And again, let me point out those highly illuminative portions for you. Oh, and before I do that, here's a word to the wise to Ms. Finke. Don't try to publish your own emails and pretend transparency if it can come back later to bite you in your ass. By the way, this is where it is going to bite. In your ass. Kind of like Jaws.

Fleming hasn't come to me about this story he claims he was assigned Monday.
I called Fleming just now and he told me he is only writing about me, and that it's a profile. So he has misrepresented this story to the people around Hollywood.
Shouldn't his first call have been to me asking for an interview? Instead Fleming told me he's only going to call me for "comment" at the last moment. How is this fair? Or that it's being written by someone who is not at all impartial about me or DHD since Mike Fleming goes around town screaming at Hollywood for "giving" me stories before him (as if I only get my news scoops by being spoon-fed by publicists...)
Now, that must one hell of a friendship. Makes me glad I'm not her friend. But then, money makes friends faster than you can slide some KY into your bottom (I told you, this all about biting. And ass. On how some people are asses). So, the guy she publicly claimed was out to assassinate her is now her buddy buddy. Or was that BFF? Or BBFF? Well, it was something that has the undertone of more than one person getting screwed, and who is getting screwed are the readers.

But that is fine. We're not here to make assumptions. After all, didn't Miss Finke claim in the PR release that now people will get to see the real Mike Fleming (who I don't know, I don't have an axe to grind, personally, don't care about the man, don't care about Variety, don't care about anything... but about the truth).

All righty then! Let us take a look at the kind of stories that are supposed to make us feel that we are getting our time's worth, all posted by Mike Fleming since he "started immediately". With his wide network and sources and things, that must have been some immediate awesome shit that went online, right?

First up, let's start with some ass-kissing. PR release No.1, Tom Hanks makes a new movie, wow. I'm impressed. Is that a scoop? Sure, in the Anglo-Saxon understanding of "we have an information exclusively, no, no, you don't understand, nobody has this piece on information on page 70, it is exclusively on page 70 in our magazine" (and I know what I am talking about, I have had this exact conversation with my former publisher at Future Publishing, there is some seriously fucked up understanding of the words "scoop" and "exclusivity" that people get taught in journalism courses in the US and England) Then there is Shia LeBeouf signing with CAA. Eh. Again, essentially a, now, wait, what did Ms Finke call it?

News scoops by being spoon-fed by publicists...

Ah, yes. That. And then, of course, the Donnersmark making The Tourist scoop, all of which are, what? Five lines? Wow. Even more impressive. Like, that thing wasn't spoon-fed at all. But wait! There is more! 007 will become a cowboy and fight aliens!
Daniel Craig is trading his James Bond-issue Walther PPK for a six-shooter. It's for Cowboys and Aliens, the Jon Favreau directed adaptation of the Platinum Studios graphic novel that DreamWorks and Universal will put into production this year. I hear Craig is in talks to replace Robert Downey Jr, who just dropped out of the film. Sources in the Craig camp admit 007 has an offer, but no deal.
Hey, retard...yes, I'm talking to you. I'm not sure what they taught you in Journalism Summer Camp, all those years ago, but it couldn't have been the notion that there is something we call in German a Tatsachenbehauptung. It is a factual statement that is legally defensible. How anybody who claims himself to be a journalist can state outright in the first sentence that Daniel Craig will replace Downey Jr. in that movie... and at the end of the same paragraph, let me repeat that, at the fucking end of the same paragraph state that all there really is.. is an unsubstantiated offer, which incidentally contradicts the factual statement at the top of said paragraph... how anybody who claims to be a journalist can write such drivel, that eludes me.

But wait! There is more. A spun PR bit on Marc Webb taking over Spider-Man, which reads like Webb's publicist sat on Fleming's lap while he dic(k)tated it into his sweet, sweet... ear.

But my favourite of them all was his last post about Gerald Butler and his prospective new project, again sounding like it was whispered straight to Fleming via the writer's publicist (why? Read the final paragraph about the "up and coming writer", you will know)

The first sentence of said "story"? Straight out of a PR release blow job...
While some actors would capitalize on a box office hit like Law Abiding Citizen by seeking the biggest payday in the marketplace, Gerard Butler is going a different way.
Ooops. Did somebody not look at the actual numbers on BoxOfficeMojo? I know, I know, it's so much work! It's two clicks and typing in the name of the movie! Don't fucking annoy me with research! Hey, retard... a movie that so far has made 83 million B.O. globally, with a production budget of 50 million (yes, you're right, kids. That doesn't include marketing costs, those come extra)... is at least 8 to 10 million still in the red, very much likely more. And please note that I by no means say that this is a bad movie, or that I hated it or that I hate Gerald Butler. None of those things would be true. I thought the movie is okay, not great, but good entertainment, I do like Gerald Butler, or I wouldn't have watched the movie, and I do think gerald and I need to go on the same diet, because we are both turning into the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

But that is not the point. The point is that Fleming didn't do reporting. he didn't even bother to do the most basic bit of reporting, looking up some data that is readily available.

So, I guess now we know who the real Mike Fleming is, eh, Miss Finke? It's the same guy you blasted for doing those exact things on March 23, 2009. But now, wait, what has changed, ah, yes, now he is doing them for you!

And thus, he must be defined in public as a competent journalist.

How do we call that in psychology again? Ah, yes. Floating truth. Floats like a butterfly, stings like a motherfucking bitch, don't it?

Spinning this in such a way makes Ms. Finke a hypocrite on pars with, uh, well... pretty much every other talking head on television, every politician worldwide and every business person ever coming above lower management at Goldman & Sachs.

What it doesn't make her?

A journalist. And thus nobody should ever again trust her with anything she writes, because she – like Glenn Beck, like Joe Scarborough, like Bill O'Reilly (I could mention more)... has a strenous relationship with the truth, and she has no problem with it, either.

Nothing she reports  can be seen as fulfilling the rules of journalistic behaviour.

Don't trust her.