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Rocket Scientist New LA Times Publisher?

By | Tuesday July 29, 2008 @ 10:18am PDT

EXCLUSIVE: Reliable sources tell me that Eddy Hartenstein, the ex-chief of DirecTV, is under serious consideration to be the new Los Angeles Times publisher, replacing David Hiller who was fired this month. A deal for him isn’t done yet but he’s first choice on the short list. The 57-year-old rocket scientist (yes, really) is a name well-known to Hollywood since he was the Big Kahuna  in the development of modern-day satellite television, serving as DirecTV’s CEO, chairman, vice chairman and president from the company’s inception in 1990 until 2004 when he left after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp bought the company. OK, so why Hartenstein for LA Times publisher?

I’m told it’s because he understands subscription-based product and new media distribution after taking DirecTV from zero to 12.5 million subscribers despite facing very stiff competition from cable. Hiring Hartenstein would seem to be a smart move on the part of Tribune Co owner Sam Zell. But why is Hartenstein jumping on board journalism’s equivalent of the Titanic? “He doesn’t need a job, he needs an adventure,” one source explained to me. ”He’s looking for the next bounce.” Hartenstein also served in senior executive positions at the satellite-based communications provider Hughes Communications and Equatorial Communications Services Company, a provider of telephony and data distribution services. Hartenstein was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 2002 and received an Emmy for lifetime achievement from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2007.

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“Take Back The LA Times”: Back To What?

By | Saturday July 26, 2008 @ 4:41pm PDT

This shows just how much the Los Angeles Times is at war with itself. This 3-story-high banner (below) showed up on the side of the LA Times building before it was quickly removed security guards. Here is the explanation for why people risked their careers, and arrest, to put it up. “It’s big. It’s bold. It’s a first step toward prying the LA Times out of the tight, greedy fingers of billionaire Sam Zell,” according to the website TellZell which, along with LAObserved, has been chronicling the newspaper’s demise. (I’ve given up trying to cover every twist and turn. It’s a full-time job. And I already have one covering the business of Hollywood.) It sucks that real estate mogul Sam Zell so far has laid off or fired over 200 reporters, photographers, copy editors and editors. Few of the cuts have affected the TV and movie departments — yet. But I’m sure the time is coming soon when the moguls dictate their own coverage, and the reporters and editors merely act as stenographers. Oh wait: that began happening before Zell took over.

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Yes, It’s True: Geffen “Over” LA Times

By | Thursday July 24, 2008 @ 3:25pm PDT

Now that others are hinting at this, I can confirm what I’ve known for two months: that David Geffen isn’t interested anymore in buying the Los Angeles Times.

David Geffen Goes After LA Times Again?

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UPDATE: Chuck Phillips Exiting LA Times

By | Monday July 14, 2008 @ 8:06pm PDT

There’s now official confirmation. I’m told tonight that, in today’s latest round of layoffs and firings at the Los Angeles Times, the newspaper has shown the door to Chuck Phillips, the paper’s most controversial writer. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigative journalism about a scandal in the music industry, but then he became the scandal for wrongly linking Sean “Diddy” Combs to the shooting of Tupak Shakur. Most recently, Phillips came under criticism for what is alleged to have been his professional and personal relationship with convicted Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano and biased reporting on the Pellicano scandal.

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Who’s Sorry To See LA Times Publisher David Hiller Go? (Anyone? Anyone?)

By | Monday July 14, 2008 @ 1:39pm PDT

Probably Hollywood is because he was the most mogul-friendly of any Los Angeles Times publisher in a long time. But not me because of precisely that reason. I was out of the office when the news broke. But the Big Media moguls needn’t worry. It’s more than likely that Hiller’s successor will be even cozier with Hollywood to try to win back movie ad dollars.

  • This Is The Other Best Little Whorehouse
  • If You Liked the Los Angeles Times’ Awful WGA Strike Coverage, Then You’ll Love…
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    What A Waste Of A Tree…

    By | Thursday July 3, 2008 @ 12:45pm PDT

    UPDATE: I warned you that talent agency tally was going to be a waste of time, and it was. Especially regarding actors, directors, or writers who recently left their talent agencies. Because the old tenpercentery that booked the job, and therefore gets the money, should get the credit. Not the new agency with no financial stake. Duh…

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    A Meaningless L.A. Times Film Survey…

    UPDATE: I warned you the article was going to be a waste of time, and it was. Especially regarding actors, directors, or writers who recently left their talent agencies. Because the old tenpercentery that booked the job, and therefore gets the money, should get the credit. Not the new agency which doesn’t have a financial stake. Duh…

    Hollywood agencies have been wondering why the Los Angeles Times is suddenly surrounding itself in secrecy for a story about their biz. So I’ll tell you what’s going on. The newspaper’s Calendar writer John Horn is all hush-hush because he’s surveying the 25 major summer releases and toting up which tenpercenteries represent the most top actors, directors and writers. Exactly what this is supposed to reveal new about the agencies I can’t fathom, especially since everyone already knows that CAA has far and away the dominant market share of ”A” and “B” list talent, with probably Endeavor and UTA doing well considering their boutique status, and giants William Morris and ICM somewhere lower on the list. But it’s also just one season. What a meaningless waste of a tree set to publish Thursday. But why all the secrecy? Because the agencies make reporters’ lives miserable whenever we try to do these kinds of metrics. For instance, after the TV upfronts in May, I tried to do a schematic showing which agency had the most pilot pickups. Oh, the tenpercentery shrieking! Worse, no agency could agree on across-the-board figures, either. (But Endeavor was #1.)

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    Los Angeles Press Club Awards…

    By | Monday June 23, 2008 @ 9:23am PDT

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    Last year the Los Angeles Times‘ Patrick Goldstein graciously handed off the Los Angeles Press Club’s Entertainment Journalist Of The Year title for print, broadcast or online to me, and now I fittingly hand it off to the L.A. Times‘ John Horn after Saturday’s 2008 awards night. My sincerest congratulations. (I received Honorable Mention this year in that category and, to my surprise, an Honorable Mention in Print Entertainment Hard News behind the Los Angeles Times‘ coverage of the writers strike. I did wind up winning First Place for the Online Entertainment News/Feature/Commentary category.) At the 50th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards, here were the first-place wins for entertainment coverage:

    ENTERTAINMENT – Print, Broadcast or Online
    1st Place: John Horn, Los Angeles Times

    PRINT: DAILY/WEEKLY NEWSPAPERS (Over 100,000 Circulation)
    ENTERTAINMENT REVIEW/CRITICISM/COLUMN
    1st Place: Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times
    Judges’ comments: Rutten’s reviews offered style, wit and insights into both substance and form, drawing readers to books they otherwise might not have considered.
    &
    ENTERTAINMENT, HARD NEWS
    1st Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times, “Hollywood Writers’ Strike”
    Judges’ comments: This comprehensive package revealed behind-the-scenes mechanics of the strike, plus its effects on everyone from television-show workers to dog walkers. Well-sourced and tightly written.
    &
    ENTERTAINMENT, FEATURE
    1st Place: Judith Lewis, LA Weekly, “The Way He Lives Now”
    Judges’ comments: Well written and interesting to the end, this story presented a perfectly hewn subject matter and angle.

    PRINT: DAILY/WEEKLY NEWSPAPERS (Under 100,000 Circulation)
    ENTERTAINMENT REVIEWS/CRITICISM/COLUMN
    1st Place: Luke Y. Thompson, OC Weekly, “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em”
    Judges’ comments: An easy, fun read. Thompson brings a knowledge of the genre … Read More »

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    Reason #257 Why L.A. Times Sucks…

    By | Saturday June 14, 2008 @ 6:15pm PDT

    Chalk up yet another instance of the Los Angeles Times losing its journalistic integrity and credibility. The latest example comes today when the newspaper changed a Letter To The Editor in order to edit out direct criticism of Calendar staff writer Rachel Abramowitz. Long considered yet another weak link in the LAT‘s already lightweight movie coverage, Abramowitz on June 4th inserted an inappropriately flippant remark about ex-Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano in an article on an unrelated subject. And it pissed off four targets of the now convicted criminal — Anita Busch, Bernie Weinraub, Jude Green and Pamela Miller — and they decided to complain.

    The original letter they sent to the newspaper ended with: Yet, Ms. Abramowitz lightly tosses off  “Where is Anthony Pellicano when you need him?” Maybe Ms. Abramowitz would change her tune if she was on the receiving end of a late night death threat phone call. By publishing this, the L.A. Times has sent a message to its readers that what Pellicano did was not only okay, but preferable to fighting legally through the court system.

    But what the newspaper printed for the finish was: By publishing the line “Where is Anthony Pelicano when you need him?” the L.A. Times has sent a message that what Pellicano did was not only OK but preferable to fighting through the court system.

    The point is that the editors could have decided not to run the letter at all. So, tragically, here’s yet another section of the Los Angeles TimesRead More »

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    If You Liked the Los Angeles Times’ Awful WGA Strike Coverage, Then You’ll Love…

    …The newspaper’s announcement today that Sallie Hofmeister is the new Business Editor. She’d overseen entertainment and technology stories, including the Los Angeles Times‘ embarrassingly weak coverage of the writers strike which new editor Russ Stanton effusively praises in this memo about her appointment. So let me clarify: reporting late on that strike’s many news developments, or ignoring altogether those that showed the Hollywood moguls in an unflattering light, is how to get ahead there.

    As I reported during the strike, to the LA Times, the Michelin restaurant ratings were more important news than WGA strikers. lat-page-one.jpgThere was, for example, no Page One news article or photo of the 4,000-person WGA strike rally, the biggest in the guild’s history. The WGA march on Fox was reduced to a 655-word story on page 2 in the Business section. And the paper used an unofficial estimate of 3,500, not the WGA’s estimate of 4,000 or the LAPD’s estimate of 5,000. I’ve read articles three times as long about French wine-making. Instead of a photo of the strike on Page One, there was a generic shot of Benazir Bhutto, an article about Rudy Giuliani and Bernard Kerik, and a really urgent piece about Michelin ratings and LA chefs. And for the life of me, even seven paragraphs in, I still can’t figure out what the Column One story about “A Pioneer Refuses to Fade Away” was about.

    I kept carping about the LA Times’ incredibly slanted coverage of this producers v writers dispute. But jeez – a business … Read More »

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    Anatomy Of A Showbiz News Inaccuracy: How Reputable Reporters Screwed Up…

    By | Tuesday May 27, 2008 @ 2:07pm PDT

    UPDATE: A Fox spokesperson issued a public denial tonight. ”The Defamer.com story about the Studio banning CAA from the Fox lot, is categorically untrue. The exchange, which took place well over a year ago, between a Fox executive and a CAA agent — that supposedly triggered the ‘ban’ — never at any point escalated to the level and language as reported on Defamer.com.”

    The gossip website Defamer today is running word-for-word with a CAA-Fox story which an anonymous tipster emailed me two weeks ago. But the website failed to do what I did: I checked it out exhaustively, and, even though I’ve come down harder on CAA than any media outlet over the years, I found that the facts weren’t anything like the story which the tipster was passing along. In fact, the truth was not newsworthy. (I’m not linking because the Defamer blogger who wrote it gets paid by the page view. So don’t reward someone for inaccurate info…) That’s also the same gossip website and blogger that recently reported erroneously that Tracey Jacobs was leaving United Talent when she wasn’t. Yes, reporting on Hollywood agents would be so much easier if only pesky facts didn’t get in the way. But here’s what really annoys me: supposedly reputable news outlets and reporters are now picking up erroneous information from gossip websites like Defamer. This is wrong on so many levels that I’m dismayed. Which is why I’ve decided to go behind-the-scenes of one such egregious and recent example of a showbiz reporting inaccuracy:

    Back on April 9th, I broke the somewhat stunning news here … Read More »

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    AFTRA Having Difficulty On AMPTP Deal: Preparing Members For Clips Cave-In?

    The message below went out from AFTRA’s leadership to its membership just now. In my opinion, it sure looks as if the union is preparing members for a major cave-in on the clips issue. But I must say that hiding behind a Los Angeles Times opinion piece is ridiculous to the extreme. When it comes to clips and their use and compensation for actors, the issue is not so much the Internet but the fact that the studios and networks want to make free and unfettered use of clips for any purpose, including commercial entertainment compilations for which only their Big Media companies would benefit financially. SAG recognizes that any breach in the wall around clips is a disaster. There is no way actors should cave on this just so retiring AMPTP prez Nick Counter can have a last hurrah at their expense.

    May 25, 2008
    Dear AFTRA Member:

    For more than two weeks, your Primetime Negotiating Committee has been working hard to achieve significant gains in wages and working conditions for AFTRA members who work under our contract covering primetime network dramatic programs (Exhibit A of the AFTRA Network Television Code). Here is where things currently stand.

    Our talks with the employers have been both constructive and productive, and your committee remains committed to reaching a fair agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). To that end, I can report that we are prepared to bargain continuously, for as long as

    Read More »

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    NYT Music Industry Reporter Laid Off

    By | Friday May 9, 2008 @ 5:22pm PDT

    I’ve just been told that Jeff Leeds, the Los Angeles-based music industry reporter who was poached by The New York Times from the Los Angeles Times back in 2004, newyorktimes_logo.pngis now a victim of the Gray Lady’s ongoing round of layoffs. I feel badly for him because he’s always had a good handle on his beat. He also writes regularly and breaks news. “It came as a surprise. H was upset to be cut,” an insider tells me. “But it’s an odd beat to cut because it’s not like there’s overlap. It says a lot about how the paper views the music biz.”

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    David Geffen Goes After LA Times Again? Is He In “Serious Discussions” With Zell? Or Have They Not Spoken In Months?

    I’ve written here again and again how much David Geffen wants to own the Los Angeles Times and put it back under local control as well as make it a real must-read. logo_latimes.gifBut the Hollywood mogul was rebuffed first by the Tribune Co’s CEO Dennis Fitzimmons and then by current owner Sam Zell. Now Geffen may be looking for a third chance to buy the paper. I’m told by a source that Geffen and Zell are “in serious discussions” regarding a sale. It’s all very hush-hush, but my source tells me: “Cash flow is not being met for the bankers, revenue is in freefall, and the potential liability on the Combs story is huge. Sam feels he bought a bill of goods. Geffen is back in the mix and he’s going to get it for a deep discount. They’re in serious discussions.”

    UPDATE: However, Geffen has been on his yacht vacationing in the South Pacific for weeks. And a Geffen insider insists that the DreamWorks partner and Zell haven’t spoken in months.

    geffen-newer1.JPGSome background is needed. I’ve reported previously that, not long before Dean Baquet became the LA Times editor in July 2005, Jeffrey Katzenberg sought a meet-and-greet to announce that Geffen really wanted to buy the newspaper. Baquet was shocked. “How’s he going to feel the first time we review a movie or … Read More »

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    Bert Fields Defends Brad Grey Against Garry Shandling’s Pellicano Testimony

    Famed Century City entertainment litigator Bert Fields today issued this statement in response to some of the charges leveled by comedian Garry Shandling in his Pellicano trial testimony last week as well as the coverage of it by the Los Angeles Times. Fields defended Grey during Garry Shandling’s conflict of interest lawsuit:

    bertfields100.jpg“I was appalled at the report on Gary Shandling’s testimony in the Los Angeles Times of March 17th.

    “Firstly, Shandling’s allegations in his lawsuit against Brad Grey did not include any claim of forgery. A check of the Court file would have shown this. So would a call to me. Without making any such check, the Times article reported that Shandling claimed forgery and even compared Brad to David Begelman, a convicted forger.

    Let me be clear. There was no forgery, and no forgery was claimed.

    “Similarly, Shandling’s claim that Brad wouldn’t let him see his own contracts is absurd. It never happened.

    “Shandling’s basic claim in his lawsuit was that Brad sold his own interest in certain television shows and in Brad’s own company. He did not sell Shandling’s interest in anything; but Shandling claimed he should have. To me, that claim made no legal sense. Yet it was the fundamental basis of his lawsuit.

    “To measure the validity of that lawsuit, Shandling sued for $100 million and settled for only $4 million. The actual settlement agreement is available for anyone who wants to check. Although I felt confident about Brad’s winning

    Read More »

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    LA Times Names Montorio Replacement

    By | Friday March 7, 2008 @ 10:44am PST

    wolinsky2.jpgIt’s unclear if this is a temporary appointment or a permanent one. (Well, as permanent as things get at the beleaguered Los Angeles Times where people are coming and going like it’s LAX…) From the new top editor Russ Stanton: “Leo Wolinsky will be moving to features beginning Monday, March 17th. I’ve asked him to provide managerial oversight, help with staffing issues and use his experience on A1 to help us get more stories from the feature sections on the front page. Leo will retain his title of Associate Editor.” For now this puts Wolinsky in charge of entertainment, cultural and life-style features at the paper, including Calendar.

    I don’t think much of Wolinsky because, as one of the LA Times’ managing editors,  he met secretly with a lot of bold-faced names about a possible purchase of the paper back when the paper’s bigwigs (all gone now) were bickering with Tribune Co. logo_latimes.gifTrue, his duties include the thankless task of outreach to the readership to stop the newspaper’s circulation nosedive. But, as I first reported, Wolinsky, acting as then editor Dean Baquet’s surrogate, was playing a dangerous game with the paper’s integrity by having secret talks with the “billionaire boys’ club” — David Geffen, Eli Broad, ex-mayor Richard Riordan, and others — to drum up local support for a local buyer of the LA Times. (Geffen in September 2005 invited Wolinsky to his Beverly Hills … Read More »

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    Three Film Writers Are Leaving LA Times

    By | Wednesday March 5, 2008 @ 2:13pm PST

    latpalm.jpgLongtime movie news staff writer Robert Welkos, film feature writer Gina Piccalo and second-string reviewer Kevin Crust won’t have bylines soon at the beleaguered newspaper which is offering some voluntary and some not-so-voluntary exit packages. Just in case you’re still reading Calendar, which fewer people do…

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    TOLDJA! John Montorio Axed By LA Times

    By | Saturday February 16, 2008 @ 12:09pm PST

    MONDAY AM: Here’s the memo sent to his Los Angeles Times staff from Managing Editor for Features John Montorio who doesn’t hide the fact that he was fired.

    Friends,
    These last seven years have been among the most rewarding of my life. Together, we have renewed and reshaped The Times’ Features report into one worthy of a great newspaper and its readers. Today, page for page, our entertainment, cultural and life-style journalism stands up to that at any American newspaper. I’d hoped we’d be working together to extend that excellence into this new era. However, Russ has decided to take the Features department in a different direction, with a new leader, and I will officially leave The Times at the end of this month. I wish it were possible to personally thank each and every one of you individually, because our collective success truly is the sum of your individual contributions. You are as talented and devoted a staff as exists anywhere and our collaboration will remain one of my life’s great pleasures. I don’t know who your next editor will be. I do know that if they take half the pride in their association with you that I have, they will be fortunate beyond measure.
    John

    Here’s what I reported over the weekend:
    SATURDAY AM: MONTORIO ABOUT TO BE AXED AT LA TIMES?

    montorio.jpgI’m hearing that the Los Angeles Times’ managing editor for features, culture and entertainment John Montorio could be headed for the chopping … Read More »

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    Finke To Goldstein: Do The Write Thing

    By | Tuesday January 22, 2008 @ 4:47pm PST

    Patrick, you and I are longtime pals. We like each other personally. But professionally we usually find ourselves on the opposite sides of the Hollywood spectrum. You rarely write about a mogul or exec you don’t like. I rarely write about a mogul or exec I like. You think the movie business is about art. I think the movie business is about money. Usually, we coexist peacefully. But not this week. Not after that venomous screed you wrote in the Los Angeles Times yesterday berating Patric Verrone as if he’s to blame for all the ups and downs of the pre-strike and post-strike negotiations when certain moguls showed themselves to be lying scum only pretending to bargain in order to embarrass the WGA leadership in the eyes of members (a ploy which didn’t work). Have you not been reading what I’ve written these many months? Have you not been doing your own reporting? Or do you just transcribe what the CEOs tell you? Yes, I know that, as a former music writer, the Grammys are important to you. But to have that one issue color your thinking to such a degree that you can only see the DGA deal through rose-colored glasses is a sell-out to writers who have spent months striking to expand their residual system to New Media so future generations can benefit. This is their fight. Not yours. Not mine.

    Worse, you have the effrontery to compare Verrone to Yasser Arafat. On what planet? I’ve actually covered world issues as a foreign correspondent for AP and Washington correspondent … Read More »

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