Gotta hand it to Harvey: When he sees an angle to boost the profile of his movies, he goes for it. The Weinstein Company is placing an ad in tomorrow’s New York Times referencing the skirmish between NY Post reviewer Kyle Smith and the real-life Philomena Lee, the subject of the distributor’s Oscar-season pic Philomena directed by Stephen Frears and starring Judi Dench as Lee. That’s the rift Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. told you about first last week by publishing Lee’s response to Smith’s review that called the pic among other things an attack on Catholics. The NYT ad excerpts Lee’s letter to Smith that Fleming ran full and comes complete with a a call to action — “Decide For Yourself” — even though the movie’s been in the marketplace since the week before Thanksgiving. Click over for the ad:
Rachel Abrams showed her chops often on the financial beat at Deadline’s sister publication. But now she is exiting the showbiz trade after three years (she started as an intern) to cover Wall Street for The New York Times. The move was confirmed today by Penske Media, owner of both Variety and Deadline.
UPDATE, 10:05 AM: Tuesday’s hacking of the New York Times also included similar attacks on Twitter and Huffington Post UK, although those outlets were not as widely affected as the completely KO’ed NYT website. Twitter acknowledged a two-hour service issue “in which it appears DNS records for various organizations were modified” including one of Twitter’s image servers and HuffPo UK reported “minimal disruption of service.” All three website registrations went through Melbourne IT, which LAT reports was the source of the breach after a phishing attack on the firm gave hackers access to a company reseller’s username and password.
PREVIOUS, TUES PM: The New York Times has confirmed that its website domain name registrar Melbourne IT was hack-attacked earlier today “by the Syrian Electronic Army or someone trying very hard to be them.” That’s according to an internal email sent out by NYT Chief Information Officer Marc Frons. He also warned employees not to send sensitive info via email until security was restored. Hacker group Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for the NYT hacking on Twitter. Ironically it also claimed to have hacked Twitter’s domain today along with those of NYT and Huffington Post. As select NYT pages were restored this afternoon, the paper claimed today’s assault was its first hacking by the SEA.
BREAKING… It’s Travel Editor Danielle Mattoon, whose name only recently joined a small list of four candidates for the high-profile New York Times Culture Editor job which directs coverage of Hollywood as well as high-brow. This one-time Arts & Leisure deputy editor became the paper’s replacement for Stuart Emmrich who moved from Travel to take over the Style section. She was senior editor at Tina Brown’s short-lived Talk magazine before landing as deputy culture editor at the NYT. Before that, she was an editor at Rolling Stone. I’ve always thought the NYT Travel section one of the truly bright spots in an otherwise increasingly grey and uninteresting Sunday read. Also Spin veteran Sia Michel was upped from deputy editor to the new editor for Arts & Leisure, succeeding Scott Veale who ran it for 5 years and will soon be named to a new editing role.
Executive Editor Jill Abramson‘s announcement today was nearly 4 weeks late according to her own timetable for naming a new Culture Editor. Then again, she has a lot on her plate because her publication is beset by financial problems, editorial buyouts, stiff competition, not to mention conservative critics who want to put what they see as the Liberal Paper Of Record out of business. Abramson was replacing Jonathan Landman who took a voluntary January buyout intended to reduce staff, then bid a private Culture department–only goodbye on February 1st at a farewell bash at a bar in the Woolworth Building with Bill Keller, Sam Sifton, and others in attendance. (Seems there were many speeches and Landman was presented with a big gag crown.)
My sources identified 4 main candidates including Mattoon for the Culture Editor job whom Abramson had expected to name by February 11th: onetime wonderkind Jodi Kantor, respected film critic AO Scott, and web editor Julie Bloom. The latter was the most interesting candidate: currently Bloom is the NYT’s Culture Web Editor at New York Times Digital, and my sources believed her appointment would have signaled a seismic shift in the paper’s treatment of the web as a second-class citizen vis a vis print. There was nearly universal surprise when Scott threw his hat into the ring. But Kantor was widely considered the favorite if not a shoo-in.
Actually, what surprises me more than Mattoon’s appointment is that this Culture Editor search caused barely a blip on the radar of the media which used to hone in on all things NYT. But those days are gone. The most damning thing to say about the NYT’s Culture section is that Hollywood doesn’t read it much anymore. That’s because the showbiz ink has dwindled and become divided between the Business, Culture, Arts & Leisure, Magazine and even Style sections. How is it determined which article goes where? “If you can find out that answer, please tell me,” one onsider admits to me. The departed Lynn Hirschberg singlehandedly made the NYT magazine irrelevant in Hollywood by profiling filmmakers repped by producers or publicists who were her pals yet whose movies didn’t have a prayer of Oscar nods. (Remember her piece on Jarhead?) Now the Arts & Leisure section is making itself irrelevant by publishing overly long breathless pieces about movies that don’t break ground or deliver grosses. (One recent example was a tribute to Gangster Squad, which everyone else knew was dead on arrival in theaters. The paper claimed its director was “trying something new” when even Warner Bros execs reasoned it was “the same old/same old”.) As for the Business and Culture sections, more Hollywood stuff is printed in the Culture section than in Business “by a 4-to-1 margin”, by one reporter’s estimate. (I would have guessed the reverse.) The paper’s so-called Media Group work for Bruce Headlam and his #2 Bill Brink – and those two decide where to direct each article. “A lot of the time it frankly doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” one insider admits to me.
As for what deep-sixed Kantor, it wasn’t any one thing. At 37, she isn’t the rising star anymore who made a name for herself after she attended Harvard Law for one semester and took a leave to go into journalism. She became New York editor at Slate before jumping in 2003 to the NYT after corresponding with columnist Frank Rich about how that paper could improve its arts coverage and he talent-spotted her. She was brought on as editor of the Arts & Leisure section by Howell Raines as apparently the youngest person to edit a NYT section. Kantor was Internet savvy before it become necessary and in tune with pop culture when the paper turned a deaf ear. In 2007, Kantor turned to covering politics for the NYT, including the 2008 presidential campaign. She got the idea for her seven-figure book deal, The Obamas, back in 2009 when she interviewed the couple in the Oval Office for a piece about their marriage. She did not have an easy time of it when the book was published in January 2012. Although her defenders said it was accurate, her detractors including the White House claimed it was not and described it as an overdramatization of old news about a relationship between two people whom the author had not spoken to in years,” Kantor did admit she “could have been more precise” about a passage saying Michelle Obama’s efforts to help stump for her husband’s health care plan were mostly thwarted by the West Wing. (Politico presented Kantor with a series of clippings that ran counter to her premise — including one from the NYT.) Now a NYT national correspondent by way of Brooklyn where she lives with her family, Kantor according to my sources wants to put down roots inside NYT headquarters. An expert self-promotor, Kantor this year posted a few suck-up Facebook updates in praise of “ultra-beloved” Landman and also “the brilliant” Rebecca Corbett recently promoted to senior enterprise editor for the entire paper. Didn’t that sound like someone about to become a colleague?
Here is Abramson’s internal memo with the Mattoon appointment:
Starting in April non-subscribers will only be able to see 10 articles, slide shows or videos a month for free, down from 20, the paper says this morning. If you want more, then you’ll have to buy one of The Times’ digital subscriptions. Now brace yourself for the caveats: Even if you’re past the limit, you can still see an article for free if you reach it via a search engine, or an email or blog link — but you can only see five a day from some unnamed search engines. The NYTimes.com home page and section fronts also will be free to browse. Smartphone and tablet users will be able to see top news stories for free — but will have to subscribe to see anything else.
The Times tried to spin the news as sign of how well it’s doing in the digital world. One year after it erected its pay wall, the paper has 454,000 paid digital subscribers. “We knew that readers placed a high value on our journalism, and we anticipated they would respond positively to our digital subscription packages,” Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr says. Still, he has a lot riding on his ability to nudge online readers to pay — without giving print customers an incentive to switch to a lower-priced digital-only subscription.
BREAKING: New York-based congressman Peter King has called for an investigation into the Obama Administration’s cooperation with the untitled movie that The Hurt Locker’s Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal are making about Navy SEAL Team 6′s hunt and eventual kill of 9/11 terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. The request came after a New York Times column by Maureen Dowd reporting that the film — which was acquired at auction by Sony Pictures before a script was completed — received cooperation and help in describing a mission that was classified. The filmmakers have just released the following statement:
“Our upcoming film project about the decade long pursuit of Bin Laden has been in the works for many years and integrates the collective efforts of three administrations, including those of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, as well as the cooperative strategies and implementation by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. Indeed, the dangerous work of finding the world’s most wanted man was carried out by individuals in the military and intelligence communities who put their lives at risk for the greater good without regard for political affiliation. This was an American triumph, both heroic, and non-partisan and there is no basis to suggest that our film will represent this enormous victory otherwise.” Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal.
UPDATE, 1:30 PM: Fear that the economy may be headed back into recession seemed to grow in the last hour of trading. The Dow ended the day -4.3% at 11,383.68. It was the biggest single-day drop since Oct. 22, 2008 and took the Dow below where it was at the beginning of 2011. Similarly, the S&P 500 was -4.8% and NASDAQ was -5.1%.
Although most media companies remain well ahead of where they were a year ago, today’s losses still look ugly. CBS, down 9.3%, was the hardest-hit infotainment giant. Here’s how the other Big Guns fared: News Corp -6.7%, Sony -6.5%, Disney -5.6%, Time Warner -4.6%, Comcast -4.3%, and Viacom -3.4%.
Among other media companies, Comscore finished -38.3% and Westwood One was -13.2%. Sinclair Broadcasting and McClatchy each lost more than 9%. Cinedigm, Live Nation, TiVo, and Liberty Media fell at least 8%. And Yahoo, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, The New York Times Company, Coinstar, and Dish Network lost at least 7%. Even World Wrestling Entertainment, which had been up earlier in the day, closed -1.4%.
The only company in the sector that gained ground today was Pandora Media. It ended +1.6% after Bank of America Merrill Lynch initiated coverage with a “buy” recommendation.
The New York Times has named longtime managing editor Jill Abramson to become executive editor. She’ll replace her boss, Bill Keller, who’ll step down to become a writer for the paper. Abramson was an investigative reporter and former Washington …
The newspaper has tried a pay model a couple of times before — who can forget TimesSelect? This time around, it’ll cost you $15 every four weeks for full access to the U.S. website and app. Print subscribers will continue to get access for free. Everyone else gets 20 free views a month before you are asked to become a digital subscriber. Here’s the memo from publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr sent out today:
Dear New York Times Reader,
Today marks a significant transition for The New York Times as we introduce digital subscriptions. It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform. The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our Web site and on mobile applications.
This change comes in two stages. Today, we are rolling out digital subscriptions to our readers in Canada, which will enable us to fine-tune the customer experience before our global launch. On March 28, we will begin offering digital subscriptions in the U.S. and the rest of the world.