“I’ve been getting e-mail for years from people who think that I’m a moron,” the Los Angeles Times’ entertainment columnist Patrick Goldstein said in an interview with The Observer this week. “I don’t think that’s gonna change.”
Mr. Goldstein, who’s been with the Tribune paper since 1979 and has written an entertainment column called The Big Picture since 1998, was talking about his newly launched blog, also called The Big Picture. “I have a thick skin,” he says, when asked how he plans to deal with any negative feedback he’s sure to get from commenters and other more established industry bloggers. “I don’t foresee getting a really warm reception from a lot of entertainment bloggers who’ve already been on record as being critical of my columns,” he said. “I don’t think they’re gonna love my blog any more than they’ve loved my columns.” And: “I roll with the punches.”
Here they come! David Poland, who edits the Web site Movie City News, told us: “There will be a backlash in the next week or two.”
Mr. Poland has criticized Mr. Goldstein’s column—perhaps an easy proxy for the beleaguered newspaper in which it runs—in posts with titles like “Why Doesn’t Patrick Goldstein Get It?” Defamer’s S.T. VanAirsdale referred to Mr. Goldstein as “the ultimate latecomer” for a column about “critic-proof” movies, criticizing him for “ambitiously invok[ing] everyone from Pauline Kael to Matt Drudge en route to the same sorta-thinky semi-conclusion at which the last 100 writers who tackled this issue arrived.”
Mr. Goldstein says he’s not so interested in territorial battles with other blogs, but he’s ready. “Let’s just say, I won’t throw the first punch. I don’t love reading pissing matches. I have a limited appetite for reading about pissing matches. So I wouldn’t write about it so much either. Only if provoked.”
But there might be more in the battle than just his own clean nose. The L.A. Times has struggled with its reputation as a slowpoke in the incredibly fast Hollywood news cycle; can Patrick Goldstein make latimes.com into something the industry reads?
At least publicly, Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Pierce don’t seem concerned. When asked what blogs he reads, the first one Mr. Goldstein cited by name was Deadline Hollywood Daily, by Nikki Finke. Ms. Finke’s site has become a go-to destination for Hollywood news and analysis, particularly during last year’s writers’ strike. Surely the L.A.Times wants a piece of her action.
“I think we’re doing very different things,” says Mr. Goldstein. “We’re not trying to get her traffic. There’s a giant other audience out there that hasn’t been reading her or other blogs that’s still available. I think there’s plenty of room.”
“Nikki is one of a kind,” Mr. Goldstein not quite compliments. “I think she does a great job. … She’s a very resourceful reporter. You will not get me to say anything bad about her. I have a lot of respect for her.”
Ms. Finke says that Mr. Goldstein is “one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” a quality that may not serve him well online. “That’s my problem with it: He’s way too nice.” Ms. Finke wonders if Mr. Goldstein, whose Big Picture column has traditionally run once a week, is up to the task of blogging. “You have to work really hard. News come to you at night, in the early mornings, on the weekends. You have to work all the time.”
“I work all the time,” she says. “Many people just don’t want to work that hard.”
Mr. Goldstein does not have a post limit, other than “as much as I can write. … The mandate is to try to write smart, interesting writing about entertainment and pop culture.”
Mr. Goldstein said that’s elastic enough to include other interests like politics (“I’m an ardent left-winger,” he says) or his beloved Chicago Cubs. He also hopes to open the blog up to other L.A. Times writers or, as he teased in his announcement post (which went up yesterday after about a month of blogging behind the curtain), his own mother, who would be called into action “if anyone ever makes a movie about free-spirited 70-somethings.” (Cocoon III, when will you be green-lighted?)
Mr. Poland calls a septuagenarian-penned guest post “simply idiotic.”
The Big Picture is one of seven blogs launched by the L.A. Times this month, with two or three more being added next. Mr. Pierce, whom Mr. Goldstein affectionately refers to as “our blogmeister” who “schooled me,” oversees more than 40 blogs for the paper. “I don’t know if there’s that many gaps that we have left that we need new blogs,” he says.
If that description calls to mind a large, once seaworthy vessel springing a thousand leaks that are being furiously plugged with blogs, that’s because for newspapers, that’s not too far from reality. In his announcement post, Mr. Goldstein lamented, “Our whole business model is in freefall—circulation is dropping, profits are down and lots of talented people are losing their jobs. We can moan and groan about it or we can try something new.”
“I think that he has no choice,” Mr. Poland says. “The reality is that working for Sam Zell and being a six-figure person and working for a paper that’s cutting back the way it is, at some point you have to go work. Patrick has had a very cushy existence for a long time at the L.A. Times.” (I’m not a baseball player so I don’t have to comment on salary,” Mr. Goldstein says.)
“I would coach [Goldstein] to not take that bait,” said L.A. Times blog editor Tony Pierce. “I could understand that you’d want to do that as a new blogger who doesn’t have a name and a 20-year-plus history. I think the story should be about Hollywood and the stars and the industry. But if he wants to smack somebody around a little bit, you know, why not?”