The publisher of The Hollywood Reporter has been hit with a lawsuit claiming that the company has denied benefits and worker protections to various freelancers by misclassifying them as independent contractors. David Simpson, a four-year THR veteran who specializes in online video and social media, filed a class action suit (read it here) against Prometheus Global Media LLC in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming freelancers have been denied overtime pay, reimbursement of business expenses, meal and rest periods and other benefits in violation of California Labor Code. It claims freelancers are “indistinguishable from employees in all material respects” and that “the sole purpose of misclassifying freelancers as independent contractors is to deny them benefits and protections afforded to employees.” The suit seeks overtime wages, other compensation and damages, among other causes of action. Simpson is represented by attorneys Matthew B. Hayes and Kye D. Pawlenko of Hayes Pawlenko in Pasadena.
Leo Wolinsky was brought in after several rounds of layoffs at the trade, and now he was pushed out after less than a year in the job. Before coming to Variety, Wolinsky had spent many years in senior level roles at the Los Angeles Times. But, as I wrote back on December 8th, why in the world would that newspaper’s errand boy be named editor of Daily Variety (both the LA and NY editions) because the guy knew nothing about the entertainment biz. I registered surprise at what a bad choice this is. He was long considered a joke at the LA Times and infamous for secretly helping wrangle billionaire potential local backers like Eli Broad, Ron Burkle, Richard Riordan, and David Geffen when then bigwig editors were fighting with Tribune Co. (Finke/LA Weekly: Baquet’s Billionaire Boys Club). He briefly sat atop the LA Times‘ entertainment and feature sections as a seat-filler until he was let go. Nevertheless, Wolinsky was made responsible for all Variety editorial content for the print edition and began January 2010 reporting to Variety Group editor Tim Gray. Meanwhile, Variety is sending out for an LA Press Club panel about the trades some junior box office reporter who was an intern until recently. Also an article in the Los Angeles Times about show business news coverage barely even mentioned Variety which is now behind a pay wall. Out of sight, out of mind?
UPDATE: It’s finally official: The Hollywood Reporter announced today that Elizabeth Guider is stepping down as Editor after three years at the helm of the newsroom. Guider had been told she was out almost as soon as THR parent e5 Global Media CEO Richard Beckman took over in January, then was left twisting in the wind after Janice Min took over as editorial director in May. The Hollywood Reporter announcement cited the fiction that it was Guider’s decision to step down because of “personal family issues” and her “desire to finish a book”. She will freelance for the paper. ”It has been an honor and a pleasure to lead The Hollywood Reporter‘s newsroom during such interesting, if challenging, times,” Guider said.
Also exiting is Andrew Wallenstein, who has headed the trade-turned-celebrity sheet’s digital operations for the past 2 years. His departure was somewhat of a surprise. But, in the end, Min wanted to do her own thing. ”After eight years with THR, the time is right to move on,” Wallenstein said in a statement. “I leave with the satisfaction that comes with my extensive reporting on the media business, from technology to television, as well as leading our website to editorial excellence and category-leading traffic numbers.”
(I will be posting a comprehensive look at THR and all its changes later this week.)
I hear that Steve McPherson, who resigned as ABC Entertainment Group president this week, has asked pit bull litigator Marty Singer to specifically target The Hollywood Reporter. If you haven’t noticed, the front page of THR is increasingly resembling TMZ as a Hollywood scandal sheet now that former US magazine editor Janice Min has taken over. Today, Singer issued this statement; “Steve McPherson is not going to sit back idly regarding the false & defamatory stories fueled by unknown and anonymous sources that are now appearing in the media since his resignation from ABC. He has retained Martin Singer and Lavely & Singer to deal with these defamatory stories.”
The Hollywood Reporter has done it again. So I’m embarrassed for the trade paper and any media outlet that stoops to content theft and won’t properly credit Deadline. Back on June 25th, Mike Fleming posted within his scoop about Peter Jackson negotiating to direct both Hobbit films that “he, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens scheduled a trip to London the week of July 4, followed by a trip to Los Angeles the following week. They will meet the most impressive actors who’ve been put on tape by casting directors.” So imagine vacationing Mike’s surprise to get an email alert today from THR claiming an exclusive that “director Peter Jackson is in Los Angeles this week quietly meeting with actors. The casting trip, which also included stops in New York and the U.K…” What makes this even worse is that the THR story doesn’t add one new fact. Nor have I forgotten that, well after Mike posted his initial scoop about Jackson directing the Hobbit films, THR tried to claim that as an exclusive, too.
Back on July 7th and again on July 8th, I was first to report that the notorious film financier David Bergstein “was being pushed aside” and would have no role in Miramax once it was purchased from Disney by construction magnate Ron Tutor and Santa Monica-based Colony Capital. (I wrote: “As for the notorious film financier David Bergstein, I’ve learned his role is over as soon as the deal is finished. ‘He gets paid for packaging the deal and consulting on the transaction. Then that’s it,’ an insider tells me.”) On Sunday, Tutor confirmed my reporting in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. But I’m bewildered why the trade tried to claim he “unleashed a bombshell” that there will be no role in Miramax for his pal Bergstein. How utterly classless of The Hollywood Reporter — and Alex Ben Block, who knows better – not to give Deadline credit. Then again, THR and Variety, too, steal so much content from Deadline without credit on an almost daily basis, it’s clear the trades have no shame anymore.
In the most recent development at The Hollywood Reporter since e5 Global Media bought it last December and began an overhaul, former Us Magazine editor Janice Min has been appointed editorial director. THR editor Elizabeth Guider will report to Min. Nikki Finke is away for several days, but since she weighs in on trade matters for Deadline, here’s the reaction she gave to an inquiry from The Huffington Post: “I am saddened to see Hollywood lose yet another source for business news, since this hire clearly shows that won’t be the focus of THR any longer–just as I’ve been predicting it wouldn’t.”
NBC Bans Hollywood Trade After Reporter Sneaks Into Upfront Rehearsal And Reveals All, Including 2010-2011 Schedule And Jokes
It does seem that NBC always keeps fumbling. So I’m not sure which is funnier this morning: that NBC didn’t have any security keeping journalists away from its tech rehearsal at a NYC Hilton hotel. Or that The Hollywood Reporter just revealed bits and pieces of NBC’s upfront presentation – from the 2010-2011 schedule (Deadline TV’s analysis here) to Alec Baldwin’s taped comic intro (as his 30 Rock character Jack Donaghy praising advertisers as “the bright shining sun in our money universe”), to Entertainment President Angela Bromstad’s strategy speech, to Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin acknowledging that the network has made some mistakes this season but is moving on with a stronger new slate, to even the pre-prepared jokes.
Both reporter James Hibberd and NBC have confirmed that he obtained this info by sneaking into the network’s upfront presentation rehearsal. No executives were there, but it didn’t matter: the run-through script was unveiled. Wrote Hibberd about what he heard: “Gaspin also jokes that having this year’s NBC upfront at a Hilton hotel instead of a posh theater allows him to gain some Hilton Honors rewards points. The downside to having an upfront at the Hilton is it makes it easier for a reporter to crash your upfront’s tech rehearsal.” The result is that a pissed-off NBC has banned THR from covering …
First, Todd McCarthy lands and now Derek Elley, Variety’s former senior international critic who’s joining Film Business Asia. Elley, who was with Variety for 20 years, was fired in March along with McCarthy.
Hollywood will be pleased to know that longtime Variety lead film critic Todd McCarthy, who was laid off by the trade two months ago, has found an outlet for his reviews at IndieWire. He “will not be silenced,” the venue just announced. “At Todd McCarthy’s Deep Focus, we will work with Todd to build an even larger audience for his work: reviews and dispatches on film from his home in Los Angeles and at festivals around the world.” Meanwhile, Variety head Neil Stiles told me at the time of McCarthy’s layoff that it was the cost-cutting decision of editor Tim Gray. I told Neil it was a pisspoor allocation of Variety‘s limited resources. Because at least Hollywood reads McCarthy. Unlike the useless Brian Lowry, who makes $200,000+ at Variety but never breaks any news about the TV biz in his lame column.
A fashion blog called Daily Front Row just posted a long Q&A about the life and times of The Hollywood Reporter‘s new boss, e5 Global media CEO Richard Beckman (aka Mad Dog). Here are some pertinent parts:
The Hollywood Reporter has seen better days. How do you plan to fix it?
RICHARD BECKMAN: By turning it into the most interesting media vehicle that covers the entertainment business. I want to create a product that is the crack—the drug crack—of the industry, whether it’s digitally or in print. I just ask that they be patient with us while we do it.
How’s it going so far?
RB: Let’s say there’s a good part and a bad part about taking over a poorly run business. The good part is you get to look around and see people who clearly aren’t doing their jobs so terrifically—that haven’t had good leadership, that are unimaginative, that have had a parent company that hasn’t invested or believed in the business—and think, This is great! I can make something really spectacular out of this. The bad part is getting there—the minutiae of laying pipe, hiring the right people, and evaluating what the brand is ready to be. It’s some heavy lifting.
Is there still room for two trades?
RB: There has been all these years. But if I’m setting the bar at where Variety is—and this is going to sound really caustic—I’m setting the bar too low. Both businesses are, obviously, in varying …
Like, duh. I’ve already reported that. Now MediaDailyNews analyzed Nielsen figures, and the Variety Online Group has seen page views drop more than 40%, and unique visitors fall 18% after implementing its online pay wall since December. During that month (when 9 days were free) page views for the Variety Online Group were 3.2 million, falling to 1.9 million this March. For unique visitors, 745,000 were counted in December, but 609,000 in March. To be fair, Variety bosses anticipated this traffic drop even though page views and unique visits are key to determining ad revenues. However, MediaDailyNews suggestedVariety may charge higher ad rates.
It’s former OK! Magazine publisher Lori Burgess. Richard Beckman, CEO of e5 Global Media, made the announcement this morning. Burgess was previously publisher of OK! Magazine since October 2008. Prior to joining OK!, Burgess was SVP Publishing Director at Niche Media (Gotham, Hamptons, and Los Angeles Confidential), VP Publisher House & Garden, and VP Publisher Elle. “Lori has an exceptional track record growing business and delivering results,” the statement quoted Beckman as saying. “This ability combined with her entertainment and luxury marketing experience make her the perfect person to helm The Hollywood Reporter.” It sounds like Burgess is the right choice to head up THR‘s planned monthly glossy magazine. And she fits into the new owners’ plans to abandon the traditional trade format and formula.
TheWrap (aka TheCrap) keeps getting turned down by the private investment companies which it has recently approached for survival funding — Saban, Shamrock, and a long list of others. And the new owners of The Hollywood Reporter aren’t interested in buying the website, given its deteriorating situation, although it’s been offered to them again and again.(As you know, the new owners made an unsolicited offer to me in January to become THR editor-in-chief.) Meanwhile, several more current staffers at TheCrap are openly looking for new jobs in this tough media market.
People Magazine has hired a new film critic to replace Leah Rozen, the mag’s critic since 1997 who took a buyout late last year. The gig went to Alynda Wheat, who spent the last six years at Entertainment Weekly. Rosen’s exit came at a time when media was lamenting the death of film criticism. While things haven’t improved that much — the big shocker for me was the exit of my former Daily Variety colleague Todd McCarthy — any fear that People would phase out reviews is dispelled by this hire. I must confess she was not on my reviewer radar (frankly, I never heard of her), but it’s not surprising that People would hire from within the Time Inc magazine family.
2ND UPDATE, 7:45 PM: I’ve learned that the Weinstein/Ron Burkle/Fortress-Colbeck partnership is still bidding for Miramax. The group is meeting now — and sometime tonight it plans to submit a new and higher quote in the $615 million range, according to my sources. That number still has to beat the Gores brothers and the David Bergstein-advised Pangea Media group. But, if it’s acceptable, the Weinstein backers will ask Disney for an exclusive negotiating window. But neither a higher bid nor an exclusivity request has been sent to Disney yet. (Yes, TheCrap’s email alert just sent out is wrong. Then again, that little trafficked website is notoriously inaccurate…) Meanwhile, stay tuned to Deadline.
UPDATE 6:25 PM: I’m out of the office. But Disney is denying The Hollywood Reporter’s claim that the “Weinsteins Take Back Miramax”. The trade sent out an email alert for a story with that headline — to which Disney responded to me on the record just now, “No [Miramax] deal done and reports to the contrary are false”.
Look, it’s still very possible that the Weinsteins and their financial backers, supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle and hedge fund Fortress-Colbeck, may win the auction. Or it might be those other brothers, Tom and Alec Gores of Platinum Equity. Or Pangea Media. But Harvey and Bob will merely have a distribution relationship with the real owners of the Miramax name and library which the brothers will manage: their behind-the-scenes partners on the bid who actually put up the big …
This notice sent to subscribers made me laugh out loud. First, Variety tries to liken your forking over money for the trade to membership in a club, complete with a “velvet rope”. Then it proclaims its “continued commitment to criticism” even after laying off its highly regarded staff film critic Todd McCarthy. And that it’s “adding more reporters” without mentioning all the ones fired in recent months and years. But I also sigh audibly that Variety (and The Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times and EW.com and the little read and irrelevant TheCrap to name just a few content thieves) continue to steal Deadline’s original content without attribution. (For instance, it’s not ethical for the trades to phone up publicists and ask “Is [Mike or Nikki] right?” and then rewrite our scoops word for word and slap someone else’s byline on our stories without any additional reporting. Other media don’t even make the PR call…)
As every aspect of the industry changes, we are continuing our promise to give all of our subscribers quarterly updates on what’s new at Variety.
The biggest change is upcoming: Soon, Variety.com will be a fully paid-access site, meaning the paywall will be up for everyone. No worries: There is no added charge, and as a subscriber you already have been provided a usemame and password to get behind the paywall. In the next few weeks, we will offer increased assistance about easily accessing Variety.com. In the meantime, if you need
Hollywood Reporter Publisher Eric Mika Officially Out: THR Turned Down By LA Times’ Lynne Segall; What’s Next?
E5 Global Media CEO Richard Beckman just informed the staff about Eric Mika’s exit. It’s hardly unexpected. Ever since Beckman was hired in January, he has been telling people outside the trade — but, deliberately, not the staff — that he plans massive firings at The Hollywood Reporter because the company plans to abandon the traditional trade format and formula. Instead it will become a small online showbiz news aggregator, and a glossy magazine, and a cable TV programmer which all depend on whether The Hollywood Reporter brand itself is marketable. On the other hand, there is a real possibility that the new owners may just flip the property or take on outside partners instead of exploit it themselves. So the future of The Hollywood Reporter as we all knew it remains a big question mark right now.
Meanwhile, I recently confirmed that e5 Global Media tried to hire away Los Angeles Times VP of entertainment advertising Lynne Segall around the same time that the company tried to hire me as THR editor-in-chief. But Segall wasn’t eager to return to her former haunt where she last served as VP and associate publisher before leaving in 2006. I’ve learned that Segall listened to e5′s bait but didn’t bite.
It may be nearly impossible for the new owners of THR to convince Hollywood advertisers, who’ve virtually stopped supporting the trade in its current beleaguered state, to come back. Beckman is convinced he doesn’t need them because of his advertising and promotions expertise from Conde Nast/Fairchild.
Many very smart people think the new owners might just dump THR if they …
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER‘S TV EDITOR NELLIE ANDREEVA JOINS DEADLINE.COM
LOS ANGELES – March 29, 2010 – Deadline.com is now covering the television industry full-time. Mail.com Media Corporation (MMC)’s Jay Penske and Deadline.com’s Nikki Finke today announced the hiring of Nellie Andreeva, The Hollywood Reporter TV Editor who is one of the beat’s most preeminent and prolific journalists. Within the next 2 weeks, she will become the TV Editor of Deadline.com and will lead TV coverage for all of the Deadline.com verticals. Andreeva intends to continue to deliver high-profile scoops and on-the-spot analysis about the small screen’s new programs, pilot development, cast changes, business deals and industry trends that will further make Deadline.com the “must read” for influencers and leaders in global entertainment and media.
With the hiring of top journalism talents Mike Fleming to run Deadline|NewYork, and Tim Adler to run Deadline|London, and now Nellie Andreeva to run Deadline|TV, Deadline.com completes its second phase of editorial expansion. Andreeva will report to Finke, who remains Deadline.com’s general manager and editor in chief, and editor and founder of Deadline|Hollywood. All of the growing staff are committed to Deadline.com’s tradition of shattering the mold of traditional reporting and creating a new paradigm for delivering original content with New Media immediacy. Hiring The Hollywood Reporter‘s marquee TV journalist demonstrates MMC’s commitment to rapid growth as one of the most dynamic companies to watch in the digital media arena.
“We are excited and honored that Nellie has joined our talented team at Deadline.com — and with this significant hire, we further accelerate our mission to become the finest source on the business of entertainment and media,” commented Jay Penske, the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of MMC.
Said Finke: “We wanted Deadline to provide full-time coverage of the TV industry but first needed to find the right TV beat journalist to do it. Lots of reporters cover the small screen’s consumer news, but few get in-depth and behind-the-scenes of the networks and studios and talent. After our search started, TV insiders quickly made it clear that our first choice had to be one of my fiercest competitors, Nellie Andreeva, who daily dominates The Hollywood Reporter‘s front page with her scoops. We didn’t know each other personally, so when I first made contact with her by email, Nellie thought someone was playing a prank on her! I’m now her biggest admirer because she is tough and talented, my favorite combination in a journalist.”
Said Andreeva: ””Ten years ago, The Hollywood Reporter took a chance on me, a reporter from Bulgaria with zero Hollywood connections. For the last decade, it gave me the best editors, mentors, and friends I could’ve asked for. I probably never would have left if it weren’t for such a big new opportunity.”
Los Angeles-based Nellie Andreeva has been the TV Editor for The Hollywood Reporter online and print edition since June 2004 and has moderated panels and conducted Q&As at NATPE and the Paley Center for Media. She joined the daily trade paper in 2000 as a TV reporter. Before that, she worked as a reporter at Investor’s Business Daily where she tracked both television and radio, and interned as a science news reporter for Business Week magazine after receiving a fellowship through the American Association for the Advancement in Science while a master’s degree candidate in the Department of Physics at the University of Maine. But her interest in the television industry extends back to her homeland of Bulgaria where she became a journalist and then spent six years as a producer, writer, and director for Bulgarian National Television. Her work helming a popular skit comedy show akin to Saturday Night Live earned her two awards, including the Bulgarian equivalent of an Emmy. Andreeva has masters degrees in journalism and physics from the University of Sofia in Bulgaria.