to tear. Nikki Finke: assessment of the furious change in the rules of the game


When Hurricane Ian swept through Florida last week, I was thinking about Nikki Fink, who moved to this state four years ago, but now lives in a hospice in Boca Raton as a result of a long and serious illness that eventually claimed her life. early Sunday morning at the age of 68.

Finke founded Deadline in 2006 and eventually witnessed how he created powerful, hurricane-force winds when he took over Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, 100-year-old institutions, and leveled the rules of the game among the entertainment professions, forever changing how Hollywood would be covered. in the new digital age. Yes, Hurricane Nikki did this by forcing Variety and THR Online into Deadline territory and reducing their daily print editions to weekly magazines. Now, ironically, they are all managed by Penske Media, which first bought Deadline in June 2009. Could we ever have imagined such a scenario just over a decade ago? It’s like she was Joe Hardy in The Damn Yankees, making a deal with the devil for one unforgettable and incredible winning baseball season.

I guess some people really thought she was the devil, but it’s amazing to think that she was able to do it in such a relatively short period of time, fearlessly battling the city, its “tycoons” as she liked to call them, and telling the truth about a business that liked to carefully control its own narrative in a PR game she didn’t participate in. As you read in many obituaries about her today, she was undoubtedly feared, not someone who could be manipulated. She certainly didn’t tolerate fools, but because of her previous career as a seasoned journalist who worked for the AP and others, she accepted the rules of this road and applied them to covering a business that wasn’t quite used to being under the microscope 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but never resorting to rumors or gossip. That was her mantra, and I like the fact that she once said she was ready to sue the next person who called her a “gossip columnist.” Not even close. She created a template for today’s entertainment journalism, which now has many imitators starting their own blogs and newsletters, but none of them lit a fire like Nikki.

She founded Deadline Hollywood Daily, its original name, as a faster way to report news than in her then-weekly newspaper column by purchasing a URL for $14, but not intending to be a disruptor or an internet journalist. It just happened somehow.

As she wrote in our 10th anniversary magazine Deadline Disruptors in 2016 (her last article for Deadline): “At that time, merchants were in no hurry to accept the idea that trees should no longer die in order for the media to have an impact. “The exchange was polite and objective, but you realized that it’s much more interesting to tell stories from your point of view,” Mike Fleming (Deadline’s chief co—editor) reminds me. “I’ve always told people that you look like a duck that walks on the ground, and then someone knocks you into the water, and suddenly it’s like, damn, look how this duck swims!”

I love this line. Finke really was a duck who got into the water of the Internet in a way we hadn’t seen before, at least in Hollywood. But in a way, she was also a throwback to the Walter Winchell era with all those catchphrases: UPDATE, EXCLUSIVE, R.I.P. for obituaries and, of course, TOLJA! It was all exclusively Nikki. It even led to Oscar winner Bill Condon, among others, creating an unauthorized HBO pilot, Tilda, starring Diane Keaton as a thinly veiled version of Finke. However, it didn’t sell because after seeing it (I still have a copy that Nikki gave me), it was impossible to capture it in a way that was as convincing as just reading the real thing.

She also had an air of mystery, which is always good for a Hollywood career, but she constantly denied that she was a recluse, instead blaming it on her insane work ethic. However, I worked with her directly for four years before she left, and only once did I meet her in person, and that was in her last year at Deadline. She invited me and my wife Madeleine to her apartment on Doheny Drive for dinner (delivered by The Ivy). In my opinion, it was like meeting Garbo. I can’t describe how nervous I was about this prospect, but after a few very awkward moments, I really discovered that she is as big a fan of classic films as I am. No one loved Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck, not even Garbo more. Who knew?

That was the only time I saw Nikki Finke, but we’ve been in touch ever since, and for Madeleine much more often, friends until the end. Yes, it wasn’t always smooth, and yes, sometimes she could cause an ulcer, but what an opportunity she gave me, and which Jay Penske continues to give me to this day. We are very sad today, but it should be comforting to know that she met death in the same way as she lived her life — on her own terms and on no one else’s terms.

Last week, when the hurricane hit Florida, I sent her an email to see if she was okay, but also knowing that she was nearing the end. I didn’t get an answer, but I hope someone could read it to her. I wanted to thank her for always keeping the promise she once made to me when, finally-after an August of endless back and forth—I signed up to leave the LA Times for the then-not—so-confident Deadline as its awards. the browser. She promised me that I wouldn’t have to be her, I could still be myself and independent, and more importantly, she swore that my materials would actually be read if I came by the Deadline.

Here’s an example of the power of what Nikki Finke did: my first assignment was covering the Telluride Film Festival in 2010, and my first article was about Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” which premiered there. Immediately after the publication, I had to run to another show, but on the street I also ran into Aronofsky, who thanked me. I said, “For what?” And he said, “This article is about the Black Swan in Deadline.” I couldn’t believe it. Not even twenty minutes could have passed since the publication. Nikki was right. People actually read the Deadline, and almost urgently, as I discovered. At the LA Times, it often seemed to me that I was participating in a witness relocation program. I’ve never had such an instant reaction, and so it was on Deadline even now, when I’m 13 years old.

Despite the fact that Deadline’s staff has increased compared to the previous days, something can be said about Nikki Fink that the core group she brought with the help of Penske is still the core group today, after all these years. This in itself is a tribute to its founder and the revolutionary idea that moved mountains.

to tear. Nikki Finke.


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