Dear Reader: Please pay no attention to John Horn, who should be ashamed of himself today — not just for his facile collection of "lessons" studios have "learned" so far this summer, but for daring to suggest that The Happening was anything but a success for Fox and Manoj Night Shyamalan. The effrontery! Even the most casual of observers would know that Manoj's Mint has yielded more than $113 million worldwide in two weeks of release, which is more than fine for all parties involved. (Never mind the 66% drop during its second weekend — it's all profit for Manoj!) Then there's this silly matter of viewers rejecting darker-themed movies like War Inc. (John Cusack would beg to differ) and Horn's pedestrian observation that "Paramount is on fire." And anyway, that's not even accurate — Paramount has topped $1 billion for the year, and Universal is on fire. Christ, John — get it straight! [LAT]
Yesterday's hearty Defamer welcome of Patrick Goldstein to the blogosphere was one of many around the Web, with Nikki Finke's hat-tip today falling the most conspicuously between "housewarming present" and "gentle kick in the nuts." To wit: "I'm told that, despite heavy promotion by the paper and other media, Goldstein's blog on Monday only received 1,102 page views, placing #35 out of 50 blogs at the LA Times," Finke wrote. "But I'm rooting for you, Patrick, I really am." Awwww! And that headline, Nikki! "Goldstein On Finke; Finke On Goldstein"? Get a room, already. [DHD]
The work of "Big Picture" columnist Patrick Goldstein accurately reflects the LA Times' dedication to producing nothing but the hardest of hard-hitting entertainment journalism: his columns, which run the gamut from "Here Is An Old Producer I Had Lunch With" to "This Focus Group, Made Up Exclusively of Ten-Year-Olds from Brentwood, Has a Lot to Teach Us" can always be counted on for a kid-gloves examination of this city's major export. Though Goldstein is persona non grata in the blogosphere for deriding the effect blogs have had on print journalism, it may not surprise you to learn he has now become that which he hated most. Says FishbowlLA:
There was much consternation in the media world earlier this week when it emerged that Tribune's Los Angeles Times would take its Sunday magazine out of the hands of trained journalists and hand control over to the newspaper's sales staff. Editor Russ Stanton even insisted that the magazine's name be changed so readers didn't get the idea that it still had, you know, integrity. But journalists are as much to blame as the business side for the fact that their work increasingly sounds like catalog copy. Here's ink-stained wretch Rob Walker in his most recent "Consumed" column for New York Times Magazine:
Tribune CEO Sam Zell famously cursed one of his journalists earlier this year when asked whether refocusing the company would undermine serious journalism. He called such thinking "classic... journalistic arrogance." But now Zell is struggling to service $12.8 billion in debt amid a weak economy, and he's planning what sounds like mass layoffs and newsprint reductions to meet the challenge. The cuts would fall hardest on the journalists who produce the least output — just the sort of emphasis on quantity over quality once-supportive reporters and editors at the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel are likely to abhor:
Really, I wasn't trying to be posh for the book party Arianna Huffington threw Saturday for Oxford scholar Jonathan Zittrain and his new book, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It." I pulled up to Larry Ellison's Pacific Heights manse in a black Town Car because that's the only vehicle I was able to flag down in North Beach. Huffington, the pundit turned blog mogul, greeted me at the door and extracted a promise of my best behavior before allowing me in. (One wonders what these people think my worst behavior might be, and if they realize how tempting living down to their expectations is.)
Stanlee Gatti, the former San Francisco arts commissioner, produced the event, which drew a crowd mixed with the Valley elite, San Francisco politicos, a gaggle of YouTubers, and oddball geek pals of Zittrain. Oh, and some grubby hacks like yours truly. Melanie Ellison, the romance novelist and wife of Oracle CEO Larry, went to high school with Zittrain, it turns out. That's the kind of it's-a-small-world connection the local press corps loves to make a big deal about. But even if Zittrain didn't have this chance connection to the Valley's movers and shakers, I'd think he'd be drawing attention from its inner circle anyway.
Just as one tires of Sam Zell's schtick-the 66-year-old newspaper proprietor's folksy pep talks to Tribune newsrooms have become sadistic rituals-there comes a useful reminder of the alternative, the pompous grandees of journalism who used to run the newspapers. Six former editors of Zell's Los Angeles Times have spoken up, in the manner of retired generals opposing the war in Iraq, with generally unhelpful suggestions for the former real-estate magnate. Worst of the bunch is Dean Baquet, now Washington, DC bureau chief for the New York Times. Zell's threat to dismantle the Tribune newspapers' national and foreign coverage is not merely shocking, or stupid-according to Baquet, it's no less than "unpatriotic".
Compounding (and maybe even stealing) our acute grief at the news of Short Circuit Redux, LA Times columnist Jay Fernandez today mulls over the pandemic of horror glutting the marketplace. With this week's release of Prom Night leading the way, Fernandez counts more than a dozen do-overs en route to theaters, including the certain evisceration of classics like Friday the 13th, The Birds and Near Dark; a Stanford professor deigns to comment that audiences can't be bothered to think and dread at the same time, so they take comfort in the familiar. Kind of like Fernandez himself, in a way, who latched on to our Short Circuit distress by reworking our "End of Ideas" tag for a lede ("Smell that? It's the decay of original ideas"), citing stars Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy being "at the height of their powers" (we said they were "in top form") and hitting the 1986 original's IMDB Quotes page to flesh out our mutual concern over Fisher Stevens' garish Indian stereotype. We feel your pain, Jay — but you already knew that, didn't you? [LAT]
If film critics are in fact a dying breed, we at Defamer would like to urge them to get on with it. It's a little cruel, we know; some of our best friends are critics, and we'll miss them terribly. But if we have to read another motherfucking article like the one Patrick Goldstein wrote today about the Demise of the Print Film Critic, we'll suck it up, go door-to-door and whack every reviewer we know our own selves just to make it stop.
Tribune CEO Sam Zell's plan to cut 400 to 500 jobs from his newspaper fiefdom—including 150 positions at the Los Angeles Times alone—could be good news for some eager younglings. Rumors are mounting that LAT publisher David Hiller is hot to replace all those costly veteran reporters with J-School kids just hungry and indebted enough to work for scraps. If you've heard anything, kindly hit the tips button. [najp.org]
And so it begins. Tribune CEO Sam Zell announced in an email today to employees that he'll be cutting 400-500 positions across the company's various newspaper divisions. "Unfortunately, I can't turn this ship from its course of the past 10 years within just a few months," Zell wrote. "Further, while I will do everything in my power to drive, pull and drag this company forward, I can't promise we won't see additional position eliminations in the future." So reassuring! In an email to Los Angeles Times staff, publisher David Hiller said a third of the 150 spots he expects to cut will come from the newsroom. Last week a dozen Tribune HR employees got the Zell ax, and in Florida, the CEO warned Sun-Sentinel employees more cuts were ahead. "If you want to visit the corporate office, you ought to do it in the next month." Both Hiller's and Zell's emails are after the jump.
Sure he'll stand idly by as the Los Angeles Times fires a succession of editors with backbone but Sam Zell, the mercurial owner of the Tribune Company, is a laissez-faire kinda guy. In a recent memo to staff he informed them now they can surf the internets completely unmonitored. " I do not see how a member of the Fourth Estate, dedicated to protecting the First Amendment, can censor what its own employees and partners can see." Is Zell truly the internet's Adam Smith or has he simply realized that if passengers on the RMS Titanic had been able to use Facebook, they would have all slid into the Atlantic pacified and peacefully? Full memo after the jump.
Web hits, "the current fool's gold of the newspaper industry," are bringing down the level of discourse in this country, says veteran Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Dwyre, in a column that leads with the saga of Golfweek's editor, who was fired after sticking a noose on the cover last week. The press, Dwyre says, spends too much time covering Britney and public demonstrations of stupidity, separate entities in this case. There's a war on, you know. What? We had no idea! This is a perfectly valid sentiment, but that's the problem-it's a sentiment, not an argument and it's about ten years past tired. I'm pretty sure William Randolph Hearst would have something to say about the web getting all the credit for inventing the proper way to monger a scandal or bait a race. (See racially insensitive image above, c. 1894.)
John Carroll (pictured speaking) became a newspaper martyr when in 2005 he resigned as editor of the Los Angeles Times rather than implement budget cuts demanded by the penny-pinching corporate overlords. But that wasn't enough for David Simon, creator of The Wire, the HBO drama about crime, politics and the media in Baltimore. Simon, a former reporter at the Baltimore Sun, still blames Carroll for "single-handedly destroying" the newspaper; he's the model for the bland manager of Simon's television show who urges staff to do "more with less". [Baltimore Sun via Fimoculous]
"The year was punctuated by anxiety over the decline of many newspaper book review sections and worry that publishing, with its old-fashioned way of printing books on paper and shipping them to stores or to online services, can't keep up with a fragmented, increasingly distracted and digital world," according to the LA Times, which was one of many newspapers that cut back or altered its book review coverage in 2007. Another problem was that there just weren't that many exciting books this year, according to Times Book Review editor Dwight Garner: "There was a lot of excitement about books by major writers... But all of them were mild disappointments." But wait, there's hope!
LA Times media columnist Tim Rutten castigated the sports journalists of America over the weekend for not covering "the transformation of baseball clubhouses into the plush equivalent of crack houses." Then he went on to recount a blind item about a "very veteran National Hockey League defenseman," who told him decades ago that "If I were a racehorse, they'd never let me on the track." Well, that's the first time that quote appears on Nexis, so we're gonna assume that either Mr. Rutten was writing for the Podunk Weekly or that he also turned a blind eye to sports doping. [LAT]
The final two presidential debates before Super Tuesday will be co-hosted at the end of January by CNN, the Los Angeles Times and Politico. Apparently, nobody relayed news of this partnership to LA Times media critic Tim Rutten, who, over the weekend, called CNN "corrupt" and "incompetent" for botching last week's "debacle masquerading as a presidential debate." Awkward! Also, we think it would make some damn fine television if Politico reporter Ben Smith was allowed to ask Rudy Giuliani a question on live TV, such as "How much do you hate me for writing about your mistress slush fund and exposing the blueprints for your presidential campaign?" [LAT]
Newspapers sales have fallen 3 percent year-over-year. With the exception of USA Today and the Los Angeles Times, the vast majority of major papers lost subscribers. This year the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the industry organization that reports subscriber information, included online readership in the report. In the last two years, half of 88 papers examined showed no change or an increase in combined print and online readings. That's good news for the news industry — online readers tend to be younger and more attractive to advertisers. That's fine. Maybe more papers should follow the New York Times' example — they may be just a fancy blog, but that's what the kids are reading these days. (Photo by AP/Mark Lennihan)