2nd UPDATE: Even tonight’s Variety coverage of the joint WGA-AMPTP announcement that settlement talks would resume right after Thanksgiving was worded in such a way as to imply that the WGA has been refusing to go back to the bargaining table, instead of the other way around: “Striking writers have agreed to resume negotiations with studios and networks on Nov. 26.” Shortly after I posted this here, Variety changed its headline and lede to reflect a more neutral position. More examples here.
UPDATE: I’ve just been informed that Variety (actually Frank N. Magid Associates for the trade) is conducting a survey to better understand how readers feel about the WGA strike and “the questions seem quite biased against the WGA”. Also a striking writer emails me from the NBC picket line today that Variety had boxes filled with today’s issues delivered to the big protest where John Edwards appeared. ”Their plans may have gone a little awry. I saw stacks of Variety being tossed on the sidewalks, thrown into trash cans, torn up and stepped on by the picketers who, to a person (within my earshot at least) dissed the magazine and its skewed coverage. Variety seems to have forgotten that writers can read, too.”
Previous: When the strike is over, and one day far into the future that will be true, media critics may have a field day dissecting the slanted coverage and total fabrications which Variety is reporting in these early days of the strike. But for now, I’ll do it. How much longer is this going to be allowed to continue by parent company Reed Business? The trade’s Jason Blairs — oh, excuse me, Josef Adalian and Dave McNary — keep inventing stories which purport to show that less than 2 weeks into the strike wither the WGA’s resolve is withering, and/or its writers are going back to work, and/or even its late show iconic hosts are going to double-cross their teams of scribes. Just one problem: those stories are either totally fabricated or highly exaggerated, made worse by headlines which are not borne out by the content of the articles. The latest is Variety‘s bullshit article today that the late night hosts may be going back to work after Thanksgiving while their teams of writers walk the picket lines. I guarantee you this is not the case and no plans are underway. My info is that NBC is putting heat on Conan O’Brien to come back earlier than anyone but he’s resisting. I hear no one is telling Dave or Jay or Craig what to do, and they’re not even thinking about it. And I know that Jon Stewart is saying privately that he won’t even consider coming back until 2008 at the earliest. At the same time, the AMPTP keeps taking out expensive full-page ads in Variety to state its case — as if the trade’s editorial pages aren’t doing a ridiculously good job of that already. I, for one, am perplexed but also sad to see the day-by-day destruction of Variety’s credibility and trust (well, as much as a trade which has always been in the pocket of the Industry can engender…)
First, there was McNary’s article wrongly claiming the WGA was backing off its position on changing on Reality TV. (See my previous, WGAW Says Variety Scoop Has No Reality). Then, there was Adalian’s and McNary’s fabricated story about The Young And The Restless soap opera writers returning to work by opting for ”financial core” status with the WGA. ”Several WGA scribes on sudsers have decided to cross the picket line to keep their jobs,” the article starts out. The piece quotes unnamed sources as saying that three Y&R scribes are doing it and a fourth is considering it, along with a Days Of Our Lives writer. Then the article fear-mongers by going into background about how the soaps are in trouble ratings-wise and may be yanked from schedules altogether: ”A long stretch of pre-emptions or repeats could prove fatal.” (In fact, the soaps have a history of hiring scab writers to fill in during writer strikes, which in turn has prompted viewers in the past to complain about the decline in quality and stop watching until things returns to normal. The Variety piece also buried a vital nugget of information: that soap showrunner Bradley Bell, whose family owns Y&R and The Bold And The Beautiful, was himself walking the picket line outside CBS Television City on the first day of the walkout. Or that Y&R showrunner Lynn Marie Latham had packed up and stopped all work
The Variety soap misinformation elicited a strong reaction: the next day, Y&R writers forwarded to me a statement signed by the entire writing staff of 18:
“As the writing staff of The Young and The Restless gathered together to share pizza — something we have vowed to do weekly until the strike ends — we were incensed to read the incorrect information printed in Variety, that several writers on our show sought financial core status. Our entire writing staff of 18 is united, and we fully support our union. Not a single person who was writing for Y&R when we struck has gone core. Not one. We stand united with sore feet from picketing. Well, some of us sit. But we all do our part, and we cannot be parted.
“The Y&R writers have been asked how long the strike will last. We know it will last as long as it takes to get a fair contract. We’ve also been asked if Jack Abbott will prove Victor Newman is a killer. We could answer that one, but we’re not going to — because we are not writing.”
WGA sources said the Variety story was rubbish and it should have made clear it was referring to only one “nonwriting [Y&R] producer who has WGA membership from previous work” who has “chosen to go fi-core and become, effectively, a scab.”
Still more Variety fear-mongering was its trumped-up take that American producers had “plans” to fly in British writers now. But the article had no reporting to back its claim, quoted not one UK scribe, and neglected to mention the Writers Guild of Great Britain’s solidarity with the WGA.
And then comes Adalian’s story today that the late night hosts may be going back to work after Thanksgiving while their teams of writers walk the picket lines. My own info on this is that the situation is way more fluid and less focused that Adalian’s article pretends. But what’s really interesting is how this info suddenly jumps to Variety‘s Page One instead of my scoop that David Letterman is going to pay his Worldwide Pants staff at the Late Show and Late Late Show through the end of the year despite the strike. That, obviously, didn’t fit into Variety‘s consistently pro-studio/network agenda.
Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.