Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The New Yorker Takes on Hollywood Power Blogger Nikki Finke


A treat for those of you who love reading about Hollywood’s inner workings: About 7,800 words in this week’s New Yorker dedicated to power blogger Nikki Finke and those who fear her and/or read her. Which pretty much includes everyone in Hollywood.

It’s a classic New Yorker profile, which means it’s thorough and a great read, though there’s not much in the way of news there. Writer Tad Friend mentions Jay Penske’s purchase of Finke’s services in passing, and there’s no update of Penske’s and Finke’s plans to expand the site.

For the record, in late June, Finke said she’d have a New York correspondent hired within three months; four weeks ago, Penske told me said correspondent was going to be signed within two weeks.

What’s the status now? “Not ready to comment right now,” Finke says via email. I’ve also asked Penske for an update.

Back to the story. There’s a lot of inside baseball about the symbiosis between the studios and the people who write about them, and some smart reporting about the tradecraft of reporting and how it has been altered by the rise of blogging.

I also detected at least a whiff of allusion to Janet Malcolm’s famous description of journalism, published in the New Yorker two decades ago:

Finke’s code is the Hollywood code. She is for hard work, big box-office, stars who remain loyal to their agents and publicists, and the little guy–until, that is, the big guy chats her up. Then she’s for that big guy until some other big guy calls to stick it to the first big guy. And this, too, is the Hollywood code: relationships are paramount but provisional. One executive observes that people who heed Finke’s call to snark about their competitors shouldn’t get too comfortable: “The idea is, The lion won’t eat me if I throw it another Christian. It works for a day, but you’re going back to the Colosseum soon.”

The bond between journalists and their sources is always complex–you’re friends with benefits, without being friends–but its contingent nature is particularly apparent in Hollywood. Finke’s sources can hear in her voice when she sounds low or unwell, and will ask if she needs anything. She’s grateful for the solicitude, but determined to maintain the barrier between her and those she calls “these people.” “A veterinarian treats animals–he’s not an animal,” she says.

What does Finke think? Glad you asked. She has an entire post dedicated to it, of course.

The gist:

As I expected, it’s an amusing caricature, only occasionally true but hardly insightful. Still, I’m relieved that The New Yorker didn’t lay a glove on me. I found Tad Friend, who covers Hollywood from Brooklyn, easy to manipulate, as was David Remnick [the magazine’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editor in chief] , whom I enjoyed bitchslapping throughout but especially during the very slipshod factchecking process.

No comment from Friend or the New Yorker’s PR staff, which sent me a copy of the article this afternoon.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle