By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
It is, of course, also wrong. But I don‘t want to get on my high horse about it. While I have no trouble believing that Bart and Christy are guilty of everything they’re accused of, I‘d hate to see them made into senior-citizen scapegoats who lose their jobs so that the industry itself can feel clean. For their peccadilloes are, like the footprints at Mann’s Chinese, an emblem of time-honored Hollywood culture whose very key signature is complicity. The corruption is open and people line up for their cut. You see it in the junket-whores who gobble free shrimp in exchange for blurbs, the foreign press hacks who want to be photographed with people they‘re supposedly covering, reporters who pass their scripts to actors during interviews. In fact, it’s a perfect expression of all this that Bart, who used to be a newspaperman, got into the industry after writing a flattering profile of his future boss Robert Evans.
The greater corruption is institutional. This is most obvious in the trades that get their revenue from the very people they‘re covering -- all those flattery ads and Oscar campaigns -- yet it’s just as pernicious in celebrity-fueled rags like In Style that guarantee a steady stream of stars for their pages by ensuring that the Gwyneths and Brads are never asked anything they don‘t want to be asked. At the highest level, of course, there’s the “synergy” of our corporate media. If Bart is guilty of conflict of interest for trying to sell a script, what do we call it when Disney‘s ABC plugs one of its films on Good Morning America, AOL Time Warner uses its Web site or magazines to promote a Warner Bros. movie, or CNN has its revamped Headline News promote shows on its sister channels?
The only sure winner from the Bart affair is Los Angeles, and I can only imagine the forehead-clutching mortification over at the L.A. Times, which has been scooped (again) on a hot industry story, this time by an ex--Times reporter at a monthly publication with nowhere near its resources. Saturday’s front-page coverage on Bart‘s suspension was written by Wallace’s successor, Rachel Abramowitz (“And what have you been working on, dear?” you can almost hear her editors hissing) and media critic David Shaw, who earlier this year wrote a portentously obvious four-part series on industry journalism that‘s fondly remembered for the laughter it inspired. That series did trot out some of the charges made against Bart, but unlike Amy Wallace, the Pulitzer Prize winner didn’t really investigate them. In fact, he seemed less concerned to dig up anything new than to assure readers that his new bosses at the Times were more committed to serious industry coverage than were his old ones (though I don‘t remember him criticizing those earlier guys’ slackness back when they were paying his check). Maybe the paper is trying harder, but given the Times‘ longtime fealty to the entertainment business, you have to wonder if its editors would have printed Wallace’s piece if she‘d handed it to them. I’m not convinced that they really want serious industry coverage.
Then again, who does? I sometimes like to picture the look on the studio bosses‘ faces if they suddenly heard that one of the trades had hired as its editor Seymour Hersh.
Not that this could ever happen. At the moment, we’re in the bizarre situation that both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter will probably be looking for new editors at the same time. One assumes that Variety will get the better one simply because, well, the Reporter‘s the Reporter -- its niche is to be less good than Variety. The one sure thing is that neither paper will hire anyone whose editorial agenda might threaten its profits by threatening the industry. Because of the recent scandals, they’ll naturally be looking for someone with a good reputation -- image counts for a lot here -- but they‘ll also want this paragon to be a courtier, a journalistic softy with a taste for the good life. David Shaw, come on down!
Powers’ column on the media appears biweekly.