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The Timesthought the next tack to take was to pair Lyman with a veteran Hollywood reporter. Lyman was even asked to meet with a few selected candidates. In November, Times editors took a crack at veteran Hollywood reporter Michael Cieply, whose résumé includes successful stints at Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.
Back in the early ’90s, after one too many run-ins with then-in-charge Shelby Coffey, known for his Industry cronyism, Cieply left journalism to try a career in movie production. At the time, Cieply told friends that he’d rather work for whores who at least knew they were whores, or words to that effect. Based at then-embattled Sony, in the offices of first Steve Roth and then Ray Stark, Cieply eventually found the taste of Hollywood failure to be far worse than any frustration journalism could dish up. He was coaxed into overseeing the L.A. office of Inside.com. When the start-up flopped, he wrote freelance articles for Esquire, The New Yorker and the business section of The New York Times.
Sources say the Times planned to keep Lyman in place and hire Cieply in a separate-but-equal position in L.A. Then, because of immediate budget pressures and imminent management changes, the new slot was put on hold. Instead, just recently, Cieply decided to rejoin the Los Angeles Times,now under new ownership and administration, as an entertainment editor-writer in the business section.
Cieply acknowledges receiving a recent New York Times overture about the Hollywood job, even though, he told the Weekly by e-mail, “I’m having an awfully good time here.”
Though Cieply’s long been in contention, Los Angelesmagazine star writer Amy Wallace told the Weekly it was only April 14 that she received her first e-mail from Steven Erlanger.
But, in fact, Wallace has long been scouted by the Times, and even met with Lyman about working tandem with him. With years of solid work at the Los Angeles Times behind her, Wallace is best-known for that warts-and-all Peter Bart profile which resulted in his brief suspension from Variety and her winning a national magazine award for Los Angeles. Few know that Wallace got her start at The New York Times by working as one of James Reston’s celebrated interns, or that Howell Raines has reportedly kept his eye on her progress. About two months ago, Times’Sunday Style editor Trip Gabriel reached out to Wallace to write for him. When her byline appeared on a Times freelance article, Wallace suddenly was rumored to have bagged the Hollywood job. The New York Observer even called to check it out. Just one problem; it was news to Wallace, who at that point hadn’t even heard word one from Erlanger.
The Washington Post’s Sharon Waxman made the short list when her name was put forward by both Lyman and Weinraub. “I have no comment,” she told the Weekly. Because the Post tends to be ignored in Hollywood, L.A.-based Waxman isn’t as high profile as some. But her Style section writing has won several awards, and her tough reporting doesn’t play favorites. Right now she’s working on a Hollywood book about directors. But the fact that this speaker of French, Arabic and Hebrew is an ex–foreign correspondent will resonate with Erlanger, who left Berlin to take the culture gig only recently.
That Bruce Orwall is under consideration comes as no surprise. His name pops up for every job, not just because he’s well-sourced but also because he’s well-known. The last time he had a serious job offer, he used it to propel himself into a near-independent gig on the media beat at the Journal. These days he spends most of his ink breaking stories about Disney, which is why it’s all the more surprising that, recently, both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have beaten him badly on boardroom-discord stories involving some directors and Michael Eisner. Orwall had no comment for the Weekly about the Times job, and Journalsources say he hasn’t said anything about it to them.
Like everything else in Hollywood, other candidacies may be real or only imagined, in part because of this New York Times gambit of trying out writers on cheap freelance assignments. A few months ago, freelancer Nancy Griffin told friends she’d been asked to begin writing for the Times’ Arts & Leisure section. Esquire’s Kim Masters says she was asked to do the same recently. On the other hand there’s the sad tale of what happened to one journalist writing at a competing New York City paper. Asked to “try out” as Timeseditorial writer at Raines’ request, the writer spent months freelancing several dozen $250-apiece editorials, some of them even lead editorials, and shorter $150 “Topics of the Times,”pieces for that now-defunct section. In the end, the Timeswent another way. Moral of the story: Don’t quit your day job.