News Corp. Gives a “Wolverine” Review a Thumbs Down. Way, Way Down.
We’re still waiting to see how this one plays out. But it’s possible that Roger Friedman may be the first person to ever get fired for a positive movie review.
Bear with me, because it’s a bit knotty: Last week, Friedman, a gossip columnist for News Corp.’s FoxNews.com, wrote up a glowing review of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” the newest X-Men movie from News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox studio. The problem is that the movie won’t be released until May, and Friedman was reviewing an unfinished “work copy” that got leaked to the Web last week amid much hubbub.
And the real problem, according to Friedman’s employers, was that his review appeared to endorse online movie piracy. So he’s been fired.
Or has he? News Corp. (NWS) officials say he’s already gone. Here’s their official statement:
“Roger Friedman’s views in no way reflect the views of News Corporation. We, along with 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, have been a consistent leader in the fight against piracy and have zero tolerance for any action that encourages and promotes piracy. When we advised Fox News of the facts they took immediate action, removed the post, and promptly terminated Mr. Friedman.”
But Fox News’s statement is more circumspect and less specific: “This is an internal matter that we’re not prepared to discuss at this time.” I haven’t heard back from Friedman yet, but last night he was telling Variety that he hadn’t been canned.
We should know more soon: A person familiar with the matter told me that Fox News officials will be meeting to discuss Friedman’s fate this morning. The Huffington Post and Gawker have heard the same thing. No idea whether this is just a formality, necessitated by the fact that the scandal broke over the weekend, or whether Fox News chief Roger Ailes is really considering keeping Friedman on. I’ll update when I hear more.
UPDATE: It’s official. Friedman is out. Per Fox News: “Fox News representatives and Roger Friedman met today and mutually agreed to part ways immediately. Fox News appreciates Mr. Friedman’s ten years of contributions to building foxnews.com and wishes him success in his future endeavors. Mr. Friedman is grateful to his colleagues for their friendship and support over the past decade.”
Until then, I encourage anyone who’s interested in this to head to RopesofSilicon.com and check out Friedman’s original post, which Fox News has now taken down (you’ll need to zoom in with your browser to make the thing legible). I see why Friedman’s employers (who are ultimately my employers too since this site is owned by News Corp.’s Dow Jones) are arguing that his column “promotes piracy.” It does wax on about how easy it is to watch pirated stuff on the Web these days.
But since he’s obviously not the first person to note that–I don’t think we can even call it an open secret at this point–I’m wondering if there isn’t something else at work here. Anyone have any bright ideas?
Meanwhile, here’s a preview of the film. Go ahead, and press play if you’d like–it’s officially sanctioned.