This is sad news for me. As a former Associated Press writer-editor I had the pleasure of working with Bob Thomas, a legend not only at the AP but throughout the entertainment industry. Thomas died today of age-related illnesses at his Encino, CA home, his daughter Janet Thomas told the AP. He was 92. From the time he began working as an entertainment reporter for the wire service in 1944, he covered a record 66 Oscar ceremonies, interviewed stars ranging from Lucille Ball to Elizabeth Taylor, and also made his mark outside of entertainment, filing the bulletin that Robert F. Kennedy had been shot. (He actually joined the AP in 1943 with hopes of becoming a war correspondent, but left after a year after he was named the Fresno, CA correspondent. “It gets so damn hot in Fresno in the summer and nothing much ever happens there,” he once told a colleague, according to the AP). He returned to the AP in 1944 as an entertainment reporter and for the next seven decades covered the industry he loved.
Thomas’ credits are endless. He reviewed of hundreds of films and television shows, and countless retrospective pieces on Hollywood and how it had changed from the perspective of someone who had lived through its transitions. He is listed twice in Guinness World Records: for most consecutive Academy Awards shows covered by an entertainment reporter and for longest career as an entertainment reporter (1944-2010). His interview subjects included luminaries such as Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Groucho Marx and Marlon Brando, Walt Disney and Fred Astaire. He also authored nearly three dozen books, including biographies of Disney, Brando and a portrait of studio mogul Harry Cohn, King Cohn. He wrote, produced and appeared on several television specials on the Academy Awards and was a guest on numerous TV programs including The Tonight Show, Good Morning America and Nightline. His biographies of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes and the comedy team of Abbott and Costello were made into TV movies.
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UPDATED: Associated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt today called the Justice Department seizure “a massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news. According to attorneys for the AP, the DOJ secretly obtained two months of telephone records of its reporters and editors. The information included a list of outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, CT, and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery. Records were seized for more than 20 separate phone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Pruitt demanded the return of the phone records and destruction of all copies, saying the seizure was far beyond anything that could be justified by any specific investigation. The government would not say why it sought the records, according to the AP. Read More »
UPDATE 6:45 PM: Film critics in print are already becoming extinct. Now Associated Press duo David Germain and Christy Lemire have quit their posts this week. Which means newspapers nationwide who rely on syndicated AP reviews can’t fill out their own anemic film sections. So why did Germain after 14 years of writing film criticism suddenly exit followed closely by Lemire days apart? No one in the LA bureau had any inkling this was coming. A former colleague says Germain just had enough. He took a 5-week vacation after the Oscars and started thinking how he wasn’t enjoying his job anymore. Managers had taken away things he really enjoyed doing, like his summer movie preview. He resigned on Monday. After that, the managers starting putting pressure on Lemire to take over more of Germain’s responsibilities, including weekend junkets and Sunday box office, and she didn’t want to do it. They also had cut back on her film reviews, her specialty, so she quit and Tweeted Friday: “Friends, wanted to tell you I’ve resigned from the AP after 15+ yrs, most as their film critic. It’s been an honor but it’s time to move on. I’ll continue to co-host What the Flick?! and will still see movies and enjoy the privilege of writing reviews. More soon, and thanks.”
Lou Ferrara, AP’s managing editor for entertainment and sports, said, “We wish Dave and Christy well. We plan to fill the positions, as the AP … Read More »
The news service has confirmed that its Twitter account was hacked with a false report that two explosions had taken place at the White House and that President Obama had been injured. The fake news led to a brief drop of more than 100 points in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Stocks quickly recovered and are trading slightly up. White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that “the President is fine.” AP‘s news account on Twitter has been suspended but corporate communications said on its account that it will “advise more as soon as possible.” An AP news story says that the attack “came after hackers made repeated attempts to steal the passwords of AP journalists.”
Guinevere Smith has been appointed National Entertainment Photo Editor for The Associated Press. Smith had been with Getty Images since 1999, most recently as North American manager for field editing. Based in Los Angeles, Smith will direct, develop and enhance AP’s entertainment photo coverage in the United States. She succeeds Dan Becker, who was named AP director of entertainment content in January. (See my previous: AP Planning Massive Celebrity Coverage)
At a time when major media organizations are cutting back on the most vital news coverage, how discomforting to know that some are increasing their celebrity reporting instead. I’ve learned that the venerable Associated Press is finally making good on its promise to pour major dollars into beefing up its already huge entertainment coverage by hiring 21 new employees in 2008 spread across Los Angeles, New York and London. (See internal memo below.) It’s also cold comfort that AP insists its new separate entertainment vehicle is “not about gossip, unnamed sources and innuendo or about ‘peephole’ journalism with AP photographers becoming paparazzi.” Instead, the wire service claims it’s just giving its members what they want “in an area of growing interest” because it “makes good business sense”.
Certainly, the AP is under intense financial pressure during these doomed economic times for newspapers: Dow Jones newswires just announced it’ll stop using AP stories after failing to agree on a price after more than a year of negotiations. Clearly, the AP now thinks that Hollywood coverage can become its new cash cow. It’s already led to AP signing a deal to provide celebrity video for People.com.
Specifically, newly appointed Director of Entertainment Content Daniel Becker, based in Los Angeles, will oversee AP’s expanding showbiz coverage across video, photo, audio and text formats as well as help develop new multimedia products. I’m told that deputy entertainment editor Josh Dickey has been brought from New York to Los … Read More »