It sounded like a not-so-subtle jab at Ms. Finke, and before we knew it, we were in the middle of yet another fight.
“People around Hollywood are terrified of her,” said Ms. Waxman. “I’m surprised how terrified people of her. A journalist only has so much power as you give them.”
“I can’t believe that she’s saying that with a straight face,” Ms. Finke said. “Her site is getting no traffic and is inaccurate and boring. And no one in Hollywood is talking about it. She must be desperate.”
Several posts on The Wrap—down to analyzing how much Deadline Holllywood could sell for and another where a contributor calls Ms. Finke “emblematic of a true danger that now exists in journalism: the unchecked reporter”—have come after her.
Ms. Finke, characteristically, returned the fire.
“When I started my Web site, Sharon would say to me, ‘I hate your Web site,’” said Ms. Finke. “She said, ‘You take all your time and everyone is talking about you and I hate it.’ And I said ‘Sharon, if you’re my friend, aren’t you pleased? If you had something going for you, I would be pleased for you.’ Then she said ‘No, I hate it, I hate it.’ Then she lied to me about what she was doing! She said she was going to start a blog about politics. Totally lied to me! I had to hear from everyone else that she was going around to people and saying she was going to compete with me. What friend does that to another friend!”
Ms. Waxman called that account “inaccurate,” and added: “Nikki has her own view of reality which does not always accord to reality as others see it. The way she twists things and the way she always manages to bend the facts—and I put facts in quotes—is in a way that suits her.”
‘A Small Town, Filled With Sociopaths’
We asked Mr. Bart if he ever saw Hollywood like this before.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “During my first stint [at The New York Times], it was downright clubby. To the real old-timers, this harkens back to the days when there were giant feuds between Luella Parsons and Hedda Hopper. They would go at each other in screaming fits of rage. It’s a reminder of that era.”
Throw a line out and you’ll find dozens of feuds tumbling in.
In fact, we did just that, with Anita Busch, who didn’t take long to start a feud from beyond the journalistic grave.
“I do think it’s kind of surprising that Sharon Waxman even has a blog,” Ms. Busch told us. “I think she’s even one of the worst journalists I’ve ever encountered. I’ve never seen anybody that ignores the basics of Journalism 101 as she does. I find it surprising that she’s got this blog.”
“I try not to click through on Sharon’s Web site because I don’t want someone who doesn’t care about journalism to succeed,” she added, for good measure.
(Ms. Waxman replied: “I feel sorry for Anita Busch for saying such a thing like that. I think that’s a pretty sad statement. I think it says more about her than me.”)
Patrick Goldstein of the L.A. Times and Brian Lowry of Variety threw jabs at each other as well. Mr. Goldstein frowned upon the way Variety did business—serving as a mouthpiece for a studio, essentially.
Mr. Lowry, in a blog post singling out Mr. Goldstein, calls him lazy, petulant and a weak reporter. “Now you have this blog, ‘The Big Picture,’ so I’m thrilled to see a newspaper that has laid off more than half its staff since I left in 2003 has finally dictated that you squeeze out more than 800 words a week,” wrote Mr. Lowry.
It goes on. Variety did a piece on bloggers—Ms. Finke was mentioned in a not so flattering light. Then she slammed back hard as well.
“I was told that Peter Bart and Mike Fleming of Variety were going around town telling Hollywood to stop giving scoops to Nikki! Ha-ha!” she said. “Hollywood was laughing at that, saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding! What, do you think we spoon-feed her? She finds stuff out on her own!’What they didn’t understand, there’s something called reporting.”
We told Mr. Bart this.
“I think that’s childish,” he said. “Once again, the idea that’s a little presumptuous is that I would advise people how to handle Nikki Finke. I’ve got more interesting things to do.”
“The important people don’t talk about the media noise,” said Mr. Bart, almost aspirationally.
And maybe that is the problem.
“We’re seeing that the entertainment vertical has become a one-stop shop where you can get the latest news in and from the Hollywood community,” said Arianna Huffington, the creator of The Huffington Post. “We’ve had members of the community like directors, producers want to go directly to the user with blogging.”
That is: Why drop your message with a trade, a newspaper—even a blogger—when you can reach a million readers without any of them?
Ms. Huffington pointed to the self-defense she published on her Web site by Ron Howard responding to the Catholic League that his upcoming movie, Angels & Demons, is anti-Vatican. Scarlett Johansson wrote about why it’s “reckless and dangerous” for celebrity rags to obsess over the weight habits of movie stars. Alec Baldwin recently lectured his Huffington Post audience about the need for newspapers: “Journalism is what is required now. And, yes, some commentary. But more journalism than commentary. That’s what a newspaper does.”
Even proximity to a tweety star gives you a voice, as when Demi Moore, called “wifey” in a tweet by husband Ashton Kutcher, barked at him not to suggest an unhealthy dietary cleansing routine to his many fans.
When celebrities doing journalism lecture journalists about doing newspapers, for Web sites that compete with newspapers and magazines to cover the industry the celebrity works … Wait, what?
“For one thing, you have bloggers who need traffic and are desperate for attention,” said Mr. Bart. “The overriding truth of the blogging community is they’re trying to figure out how to monetize their endeavors. So you have to call attention to yourself. On that side, you have a clear motive.”
Put more bluntly, Ms. Busch said, “Hollywood is a small town filled with sociopaths. And when you’re assigned to cover that? You really have to be on your feet.”
As long as you don’t get your legs broken, that strategy will work just fine.
On Sunday night, Mr. Kutcher was giving another “status update” to his million-strong audience. Celebrity news, straight from the horse’s mouth!
“Off to a suprise b day party for … ,” he wrote; then, “Uh maybe not.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article characterized Howard Schultz as an invididual investor in The Wrap, instead of co-founder of the venture capital firm that made the investment.