Nikki Finke is an American journalist and blogger. She was the founder, editor-in-chief, and president of Deadline.com, a website with original content consisting of her and other veteran showbiz journalists' reporting and commentary on the business of the entertainment industry. The website was formerly known as Deadline Hollywood Daily. In December 2011, she was given the additional title of editorial advisor of parent company Penske Media Corp. Finke has been called the "most feared, despised, and uncompromising journalist in Hollywood." On November 5, 2013, Deadline Hollywood announced Nikki Finke's departure. On June 12, 2014, she launched NikkiFinke.com.
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My short bio: Nikki Finke is Founder & CEO of HollywoodDementia.com and an authority on the entertainment industry. She is now writing showbiz short fiction for the first time on her website along with other insiders. She is best known as Editor-in-Chief Emeritus & Founder of Deadline Hollywood. Before her 30-year Hollywood journalism career, Nikki reported on national, political and international news.
Check out her latest project at http://HollywoodDementia.comMy Proof:** https://twitter.com/NikkiFinke/status/629352247474978818
How's your relationship with Matt Drudge these days?
I've known Matt Drudge for seemingly forever. He was one of the true online pioneers. What's amazing about Drudge is his reach into every facet of power in every field. He truly has clout. Media outlets like The New York Times beg him to pick up their stories. He and I both are finding the Trump phenom right now very stimulating and interesting for the media - if it lasts.
which scoop have you witnessed go beyond entertainment that possibly affected politics, world events?
Well, I scooped the world about Ronald Reagan's final weekend and death. And I used to report on U.S.-Russian strategic arms talks and summits between leaders. But when Benghazi broke out, and an anti-Muslim movie was blamed, I kept reorting on what was true and what wasn't. Plus, I scooped that Oprah was leaving her syndicated show - and that was pretty earth-shattering, LOL. I couldn't believe what a big deal that was.
But let's face it: every Presidential political candidate comes to Hollywood with their hands out looking for campaign cash.
Hi Nikki! It seems like the journalism world is very cutthroat and competitive -- do you have advice for young reporters just starting out about forming relationships with their peers? Is it sometimes hard to make friendships with people you're competing against in media?
When I was a young journalist, I found that the older journalists hated me. They threw shade because they knew I was working harder than they were and scooping them which made them look bad to their editors. (No journo likes to hear, "Why didn't you have that story?" from their editors.) It took me a few years to ignore that. As a journalist, you must have balls of steel to go with a thick skin. The only thing that matters is working your sources and getting as close to the truth as possible. Who cares if no one likes you for it? Isn't that why people get dogs? In recent years I'm so used to getting bad press about how I "bullied" Hollywood that I was shocked when anybody had anything nice to say about me. I think a lot of people are very relieved I'm not in journalism now.
what was different in scale about the oprah scoop?
It was cataclysmic. Made more so because she and her people didn't comment on my scoop for two weeks. And other journalists spent that time trying to knock down my story. But of course I was right and my story was true. Even CBS which owned Oprah's syndicated show didn't know if she was leaving or not. I did.
Nikki, long-time fan and follower of your work before your shift into the new job direction!
Question: how many books do you have planned for release in the next year?
I hate writing books. Period. I do have a non-fiction manuscript about Hollywood about to be published, however. But lock me in a closet and don't let me come out if I ever decide to do another non-fiction book again. However publishers are coming to me now wanting to do books with my fiction. So we'll see.
Ben Affleck and the Nanny, yes or no? How about JLo?
Thank god I've never done celebrity gossip in my long career. I have zero interest in it. I believe everyone is entitled to a private personal life. I don't and won't go there. But from a professional standpoint, Ben Affleck was one of the most humble actors/directors/producers I ever came to know in Hollywood. And that's saying a lot. I remember the night he won the Best Picture Oscar for 'Argo', he called me from his car as he was leaving the ceremony. And even though everyone knew he was going to win, he was still gobsmacked about it, almost in shock.
where did you get your scoops for deadline?
I got my scoops for Deadline from everywhere and everybody! Moguls, top executives, big and little agents and managers, even several times from my seatmates in First Class on planes. Plus, if you get people angry enough, they start telling you the truth.
Is the new site really full of fictional stories, or is it just called "fiction" for another reason?
It's fiction about the entertainment industry at HollywoodDementia.com. But all art is based on reality and fiction is based on real-life. However, I make the contributors sign a Contributors Agreement specifying that these are not real people or real events they're writing about.
I think what's key is that the people and events in all the stories I'm publishing and writing at HollywoodDementia.com, could exist. It's a matter of capturing the uniqueness of Hollywood: how people talk, act, eff up.
Out of all the major studios, which one did you feel was the most transparent when it came to their Box Office expectations? Which one fed you the most information?
All the studios basically report box office the same: within the confines of their publicity machines. You can see a movie doing badly - say there are major stars and yet the first weekend can't pass $20M - and TPTB will still tell the trades that the movie is "meeting expectations". Which is a crock, of course. My job was to get below that and find out what went wrong.
OK, I shouldn't wimp out. Based on experience, Sony has been the worst for refusing to recognize when their movies tank, followed by Fox and Warners equally. Disney hasn't had a movie tank since 'John Carter', and Paramount is the most honest about its failures.
Which actual living person was the biggest inspiration for your stories?
I've never had an "inspiration", per se. To be honest, I always look for the warts in people, not the beauty. That's why I became a journalist. I know that sucks, but it's how I'm wired.
What do you think of the current direction of Deadline? How would it be different if you were still in charge?
I am prevented by a settlement from commenting specifically about Deadline. However, I think Hollywood gets the trades it desires. All of journalism is too dependent on advertising, not just entertainment media outlets. Look at Buzzfeed, they started yanking stories off their site when those stories were critical of advertisers. It's happened for decades and will continue for decades. Which is why the blogosphere has changed that.
Who is the craziest executive still working in Hollywood?
Oh my. That's an incredibly long list. The producer Scott Rudin probably is #1 followed close behind by studio chief Harvey Weinstein. I recall one time when the two of them were fighting: it was like Godzilla vs King Kong. I made one of them promise to give a donation to a charity if what I was reporting was wrong: it wasn't, but they never made the donation, dammit.
I'd have to add Ryan Kavanaugh to that list. But since his company is going belly up (bankruptcy), he may not be around much longer. Which is a shame because who will Hollywood have to kick around now? He was a laughingstock, or should have been.
Thanks for the reply - I think that's actually a pretty good trait for a journalist. The worst type of journalist is the uncritical kind.
Unfortunately, that trait also makes me a giant pain in the ass.
Do you miss the old days before Twitter and instant Internet news? Or do you prefer the fast up-to-the-minute scoop style of news delivery today?
Great question. I love the current environment where everything is instantaneous. It removes a lot of impediments to getting the free flow of honest as-it-happens news out there. I remember the days when each article had to be vetted by a dozern editors. (Who didn't mprove anything, by the way.) The only difference is that consumers need to know whom to trust to deliver their news: trained journalists or I-think it-therefore-it-must-be-true bloggers or I'll-write anything-for-followers Tweets.
were there any truths to the rumors that you were going to go back to writing about politics? what changed your mind?
Yes, totally true. It started because some well-known political journalists began tweeting that I should bring my no-holds-barred style of truthful reporting and commentary from Hollywood to DC. Then The Washington Post did an article about "What would happen if Nikki came here" (without calling me for comment, by the way). Next thing I knew, I received an amazing offer to write a Jack Anderson-style column from Politico. It was very tempting! But at my age, to start all over again, and to compete with journos who've been covering politics for 20-30-40 years, was daunting. Plus I would have had to move to DC and I have a very nice set-up here in Hollywood. Not to mention my life and friends.
Have you always been afraid of having your picture taken?
Yes. There are almost no photos of me as a child. And one of them, taken when I was three, shows me miserably looking into the camera and trying to hide. Aren't there native people who believe the camera robs them of their inner spirit? It was painful for me to recently have a new photo taken to update the one from 10 years ago. I called the photographer, she came over, I gave her 10 minutes to do a candid shot, and I released it.
Love your work. Three questions:
1) How did you maintain such connected relationships when you would dish on everyone in the entertainment community?
2) When Deadline was bought by PMC, did you expect the eventual fallout (I was worried it would happen)?
3) I thought non-competes are not enforceable in California, were the proceedings handled elsewhere?
1) I'd say Hollywood enjoyed it immensely when I was eviscerating someone, anyone, other than them. But they realzed I was an equal opportunity basher: everyone would get his or her turn. So there was fairness in that. And they appreciated it. Plus, there was a grudging acceptance that I was right all the time.
2) A settlement prevents me from commenting on PMC.
3) I agreed not to compete. It was my decision to do this, not some enforceable or non-enforceable contract provision or California law. I take full responsibility for my decision to leave Hollywood journalism as of August 2014. And, while it made headlines, I have zero regrets. I accomplished everything I ever wanted in journalism thanks to a long and satisfying career as a national newswoman, foreign correspondent, Washington DC correspondent, and Hollywood columnist, not to mention starting an entertainment news website from nothing and building it into an internationally known franchise that's still thriving without me. Plus, I became financially rich in the process. I am one happy camper.
And now I've started a new website at HollywoodDementia.com for short fiction about the entertainment industry. It's amazing...
Thanks for the response! You're a pioneer yourself in entertainment journalism, and it's always been a pleasure to see you get to the bleeding heart of your stories!
Very kind words.
I've always suspected that the reason Hollywood escapes serious investigation for their shady accounting us because the industry is so tight with politicians. Does that have merit or is that off base?
It's an interesting question. I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, but Washington DC doesn't think Hollywood is important enough to get involved. Oh, the feds will get involved in issues of piracy because of the well-financed lobbying by the Motion Picture Association repping the studios. But they won't concern themselves with the little guys who are getting ripped off by the 'fatal subtraction' of creative studio accounting. It sucks. Especially when you consider that Hollywood is America's most influential cultural export for the world.
What do you think of the evolving business model for television (Netflix, Amazon, HBO Go, etc.)? Are the traditional networks dead or do you think any of them can resuscitate themselves? Are there any television up-and-comers on the rise you think are particularly exciting?
I've been thinking and analyzing this issue for decades. The fact is people are watching entertainment like never before: they're just not watching it consistently on traditional platforms like television sets or in movie theaters. There are so many places now where they can watch. The key for these entertainment companies is developing and distributing the content as widely and as vertically/horizontally as they can. The advantage of this new order for the entertainment moguls is that they can work on controlling every aspect of their content up and down and across. They won't need cable or satellite or phone company subscriptions: everything will be delivered directly by them to the consumers. Direct delivery is what's happening now.
can you name, top 10 reasons why other countries hate america?
Was the controversy last year surrounding The Interview manufactured or legitimate? Was there a real threat?
I stopped reporting on Hollywood as of August 2014. The Sony hacking happened after that. My own opinion is that North Korea had little to do with it and an internal studio personnel dispute had a lot. But what I am saying here is not based on reporting. What I can't believe is why Sony greenlighted The Interview in the first place. It was horrible!
What are your thoughts on Going Clear? Why do you think institutions like that are so popular in Hollywood?
I wrote earlier in this Reddit that I believe in keeping personal lives private. I believe religions fall under that. I think people should be free to worship anything and any way they choose, even if it's a crackpot religion that borders on cultism. I will never condemn anybody or any organization for religious beliefs. This country was founded on religious freedom. Personally, I'm an agnostic even though I'm culturally Jewish.
OK, on that note, I'm done. Thanks for reading and participating in this. And check out my HollywoodDementia.com for showbiz short fiction written by insiders. It's a very cool site!