UPDATE: It’s True: Gawker’s Jesse Oxfeld Canned

I find it shameful that Dow Jones/Marketwatch media critic Jon Friedman has chosen to write such a misogynist piece published today (I refuse to link to it) that trivializes me and what I do. It begins with a bit-o-praise under the headline, “In-your-face Finke keeps Hollywood honest. Nobody writes tougher stuff than this LA Weekly scribe…), then proceeds to dissemble. No mention of my extensive journalism background. No mention of my recent award (which he told me was supposed to be the peg for the profile). He wouldn’t have dared write an article like this about a male business journalist working for a mainstream newspaper. Several comments attributed to me were uttered by Friedman, while others were post-interview phone chatter put on the record by him contrary to our agreement. In several places, my quotes were taken out of context, and in one place his characterization of my work is not supported by the facts. He also allows someone who isn’t a journalistic colleague, who has never met me and who has never spoken to me, to disparage me even though there’s no basis whatsoever for such a personal judgment call. I accepted Friedman’s stated purpose that he intended to write about myself and my work, and I was prepared to take any and all legitimate hits. Instead, he presented me as a carnival sideshow act. Everyone knows how hard it is to craft a serious career and reputation, and how easily it can be undone by an article like this.

UPDATE: My own editor has emailed me “friendly advice” that I’m “tone deaf” not to realize this is an “almost overwhelmingly positive piece” and that “your journalism is given the highest praise and your quirks, what minor ones are discussed, are endearing in the piece. You look human….” To which I say, gee, my hearing was working fine. When Friedman interviewed business journalists Allan Sloan (Newsweek) and Joseph Nocera (The New York Times) recently, he never asked them ”Which business tycoon do you have a crush on?” The result was a column that focused on their views about business journalism. Friedman and I talked 99% about that same subject, yet almost none of that is in there. Instead, Friedman asked me over and over and over again, ad nauseum, “Which movie star do you have a crush on?” — then focused on that kind of nonsense.

2ND UPDATE: Re Jesse Oxfeld’s posting of our email exchange, I completely stand behind what I wrote to him. I do think media people’s feet should be held to the fire for tossing off “expert” and deeply personal comments about individuals they don’t know. Why in the world should I not rebuke what he said? Now I’ve received a public retraction and apology from him, albeit snarky ones, and I’m satisfied.

FINAL UPDATE: I just want to thank you for all your support. The many emails and phone calls I’ve received, mostly from women journalists but also from (enlightened) men, have been so gratifying. The great news is that this clearly started a dialogue about how sexism is still widespread in the profession of journalism. (And here I thought we’d moved on from the time when AP’s VP in charge of personnel worried that I wasn’t “tough enough” to become a Moscow correspondent — until foreign editor Nate Polowetzky told him, “She’d run over her own mother for a story.”) My main point was that there simply was no excuse for two separate standards (and by that I mean, two separate sets of questions, two separate sets of descriptions, etc.) to be applied in a profile of a female business journalist versus a male business journalist. The response I received from the author afterwards – ”Oh, I wanted this to be a fun story!” – was also inappropriate, especially since this had been pitched to me as a serious look at my writing and reporting. You also agreed with me when I objected to shoddy journalism. You abhored that off-the-record quotes were placed on-the-record (that cemetery stuff), or that the author’s statements were written as mine (about being first on Ovitz, Eisner or Diller). You saw how the author omitted any mention of my journalism background or my recent award (which was supposed to be the peg for the story) yet focused on my debutante past and even judged my marriage. You understood me when I complained that the Frances Farmer quote was taken out of context. (My historical point, which I expressed to the author but he failed to include, was that Farmer fought Hollywood – and lost.) You abhored that off-the-record quotes were placed on-the-record. You disliked the author’s publishing deeply personal comments about me from a blogger who is a complete stranger to me. And you said “hurrah” when I contacted that blogger and asked for — and received — a retraction/apology. I’m reprinting two emails here which are representative of those I received (I’ve edited out their IDs):

  • Hi Nikki, you don’t know me, but I write about [XXX] for the Chicago Tribune (aka the Titanic). I think you were right to be upset about that Jon Friedman piece. He almost went out of his way to make you look a certain way, flaky or whatever, which is really unfortunate and so obviously not true. As a woman journalist, I couldn’t agree more with what you said about having to fight that much harder to get and keep your credibility. I’m sorry and even angry that he felt the need to portray you that way.
  • And this with the subject line Well said, Nikki from a male editor at the Wall Street Journal: “You’re right. ‘When Friedman interviewed business journalists Allan Sloan (Newsweek) and Joseph Nocera (The New York Times) recently, he never asked them ‘Which business tycoon do you have a crush on?’ The result was a column that focused on their views about business journalism. Friedman and I talked 99% about that same subject, yet almost none of that is in there. Instead, Friedman asked me over and over and over again, ad nauseum, ‘Which movie star do you have a crush on?” — then focused on that kind of nonsense.’ I think Jon did mean to praise you, but you’re right that he’s not treating you with the deference he applies to the men. It happens too often, still.”

Finally, I find it interesting that, in the pick-ups of this mini-controversy, some bloggers twisted their postings into pretzels so as not to link to my own DHD words in response to MarketWatch and Gawker. On the other hand, I did receive big assignments from a pair of major magazines because of this. Go figure.

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.

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