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The Hollywood Reporter

The Hollywood Reporter is a major trade publication of the film industry in the United States. During the last century it was one of the two major publications — the other being Variety. Today both newspapers cover what is now more broadly called the entertainment industry.

History

The Hollywood Reporter was Hollywood's first daily entertainment industry trade paper. It began as a daily film publication, then added television coverage in the 1950s and began in the late 1980s to cover all intellectual property industries.

Founder

William R. Wilkerson published the first issue of the Hollywood Reporter on September 3, 1930. This daily magazine reported on movies, studios and personalities in an outrageously candid style. Through its outspoken pages Wilkerson became one of the town's most colorful and controversial figures. He began each issue with a self-penned editorial entitled "Tradeviews," which exposed corrupt studio practices. "Tradeviews" went on to become one of the most widely read daily columns in the industry. The upstart publisher also employed hard-ball tactics to solicit advertising. Studios were literally blackmailed into giving their support. If they refused, he ordered a complete editorial blackout on all their material - from press releases to film reviews. The corporate moguls eventually banded together to deal with The Reporter. They refused Wilkerson all advertising support and deprived him of news from their studios. They even hired extra employees to burn The Hollywood Reporter when it was delivered every morning at their front gates. At the height of the battle, his reporters were barred from every lot in town. Wilkerson told them to climb over the studio walls and sift through executives' garbage. These tactics produced a flood of incriminating news, which Wilkerson cheerfully printed. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had the paper airmailed daily to his desk at the White House. By 1936, The Hollywood Reporter had become something even the most prescient studio heads never anticipated - a power that rivaled their own.

The Hollywood Blacklist

Wilkerson believed that the Screen Writers Guild was one of the prime Communist strongholds in all of Hollywood. He used his TradeView column to publicize the "Communist Takeover" of the guild dating as early as 1938. Throughout the thirteen year Screen Writers Guild ban of its members advertising their services in trade papers, Wilkerson would not allow screenwriter credits in the Reporters film reviews.

On Monday, July 29, 1946, Wilkerson published his TradeView entitled "A VOTE FOR JOE STALIN". It contained the first industry names on what later became the infamous Hollywood Blacklist - Dalton Trumbo, Maurice Rapf, Lester Cole, Howard Koch, Harold Buchman, John Wexley, Ring Lardner Jr., Harold Salemson, Henry Meyers, Theodore Strauss and John Howard Lawson.

Wilkerson soon went after Cole, who was the first Vice President of the Screen Writers Guild. Here, Wilkerson would be the first to ask the two questions that would ring throughout the nation for the next decade: "Are you a member of the Writers Guild?" and "Are you a member of the Communist Party of the United States?" On Monday August 19, 1946, Wilkerson wrote:

FOR THE PURPOSE of trying to tag the activity of the Screen-Writers Guild generally, and particularly its action proposing to our State Department that the U.S.-French film agreement be renegotiated to give "greater benefit" to the French film writers, we would like to ask Mr. Lester Cole, who authored the motion for SWG passage:

"Are you a Communist? Do you hold card number 46805 in what is known as the Northwest Section of the Communist party, a division of the party made up mostly of West Coast Commies?

In an editorial entitled "RED BEACH-HEAD!" on Tuesday August 20, 1946, Wilkerson took aim at Hollywood writer, John Howard Lawson. On Wednesday August 21,1946, in an editorial entitled "Hywd’s Red Commissars!", Wilkerson skewered John Leech, Emmet Lavery, Oliver H. P. Garrett, Harold Buchman, Maurice Rapf, and William Pomerance. On September 12, 1946, Wilkerson printed "the list" of names that would be plucked by The House Committee on Un-American Activities for their 1947 hearings. Wilkerson used two different colors to identify two different levels of participation in Communism. "Red" indicated that the individual was a card-carrying communist. "Pink" meant that an individual simply had communist sympathies.

The list included:

Known in the beginning as "Billy’s List", it quickly became "Billy’s Blacklist", referring to the color of the publisher’s magazine ink. Wilkerson's list would eventually evolve into the infamous "Blacklist" that became the backbone of the May 8, October 20 and October 27 hearings. These hearings led to citations for contempt being issued by Congress on November 24, 1947.

Wilkerson would do what no other publisher in America had dared to do prior to August 1946 - publish the identities of card-carrying communists, their party member numbers and pseudonyms on his front page.

Ownership changes

Wilkerson ran The Hollywood Reporter until his death in 1962, when his wife, Tichi Wilkerson, took over as publisher and editor-in-chief. She sold the paper on April 11, 1988 to trade publishers BPI for $26.7 million. Teri Ritzer was the last editor under Wilkerson. She began the paper's modernization by bringing newspaper editors into what was essentially a Hollywood wannabe newsroom.

BPI's publisher, Robert J. Dowling, brought in Alex Ben Block in 1990 and editorial quality of both news and specials was steadily improved. Ritzer and Block dampened much of the rah-rah coverage and cronyism that had infected the paper under Wilkerson. After Ben Block left, former film editor at Variety, Anita Busch, was brought in as editor between 1999 and 2001. Busch was credited with making the paper competitive with Variety. Dowling helmed the paper until he was forced to retire during corporate changes in late 2005. Tony Uphoff assumed the publisher position in November 2005. The Reporter was acquired, along with the rest of the assets of VNU, in spring 2006 by a private equity consortium led by Blackstone and KKR, both with ties to the conservative movement in the United States. Uphoff was replaced in October 2006 by John Kilcullen, who was the publisher of Billboard. Matthew King, Vice President for content and audience, and editorial director Howard Burns left the paper in a wave of layoffs in December 2006; editor Cynthia Littleton, widely respected throughout the industry, reported directly to Kilcullen. The Reporter absorbed another blow when Littleton left her position for an editorial job at Variety in March, 2007. Web editor, Glenn Abel, also left after 16 years with the paper.

In January 2007 VNU was purchased by a private equity consortium and renamed The Nielsen Company, whose properties include Billboard, AdWeek and A.C. Nielsen. Under its new leadership, Nielsen is reported to have made a $5 million investment in The Reporter.

In April 2007 industry veteran Eric Mika was named to the newly-created role of Senior Vice President, Publishing Director of The Reporter. Having previously served as Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Nielsen Business Media’s Film and Performing Arts Group and, before that, as Vice President and Managing Director for Variety, Mika assumed responsibility for the general management of sales, marketing and editorial for The Hollywood Reporter, as well as the brand’s ancillary products, events, licensing business and partnerships

In June 2007, Rose Einstein, former Vice President, Advertising Sales for Netflix and 25-year veteran of Reed Business Media, was named to the newly-created role of Vice President, Associate Publisher to oversee all sales and business development for The Reporter.

Then in July 2007 The Reporter named Elizabeth Guider as its new editor. An 18-year veteran of Variety, where she served as Executive Editor, Guider assumed responsibility for the editorial vision and strategic direction of The Hollywood Reporter’s daily and weekly editions, digital content offerings and executive conferences.

Presence on the web

The Hollywood Reporter launched a website in late 1995. Initially it was a premium service but competition forced it to become more reliant on ad sales and less on subscribers. The Reporter started archiving some news stories electronically in 1991 and published a primitive "satellite" digital edition in the late 1980s. The web site had already gone through several redesigns. In 2002, The Reporter’s web site won the Jesse H. Neal Award for business journalism.

Other Reporter electronic products include U.S. and European daily e-mail editions, a daily East Coast digital edition, a business podcast and a number of blogs, and a weekly Korean-language newsletter that reaches nearly 4,000 subscribers in Korea each day. In June 2007 The Reporter introduced The Hollywood Reporter, Digital Edition, an online electronic replica of the daily magazine, available in 12 languages, that also features text-to-voice conversion into six languages. In October 2007 the publication launched THR Direct, a free application that provides subscribers with immediate delivery of customized news, alerts and video from The Hollywood Reporter to their desktop

The Reporter was slow to modernize. The paper still used vintage IBM-styled selectric typewriters in several departments into the early 1990s and was sluggish in upgrading operations by adding common business equipment such as computers, scanners and color printers to all departments. Archival materials were routinely microfilmed as late as 1998 rather than digitized, even though the system to view it was in storage or broken. Interoffice email appeared only by the late 1990s as well. It was publisher Robert Dowling who was key in essentially dragging the paper into the 20th century just as it entered the 21st.

In the era of bloggers, cellphone cameras, 24/7 cable business news and the explosion of information outlets on the internet, it is possible that one of the trades will take its daily publication completely on-line in the near future.

Current status and legacy

The Hollywood Reporter has been called an institution, publishing out of the same offices on Sunset Boulevard for more than a half century, although by the 1970s the aging offices had become a time capsule more akin to the 1950s and the paper had clearly outgrown them. Today, the offices are in L.A.'s Mid-Wilshire district.

In November 2007, The Reporter launched its Premier Edition, a new day-and-date edition of the publication with daily morning delivery to subscribers in New York and key cities across the East Coast. As a result of the move to regional printing, the Premier Edition is also available on newsstands throughout Manhattan each morning from Monday through Friday.

The Hollywood Reporter's conferences and award shows include the Key Art Awards, which aim to recognize the best in movie marketing and advertising. Its annual Women in Entertainment: Power 100 issue and event is a somewhat controversial if not subjective ranking of female entertainment executives. It’s annual "Next Generation" special issue and event honors 35 up-and-coming executives in entertainment that are 35 years or younger. The paper's influential celebrity marketability rating system, Star Power, will be published again in 2008, after a hiatus.

Editors and reporters today

The Hollywood Reporter has a staff of roughly 200. Today, editors and reporters number more than 60, with another 50 staffers scattered in key locales around the world, having downsized when VNU absorbed BPI Communications in 2000. The paper publishes only on weekdays, although The Reporter has a weekly international edition published each Friday and in the early 70's, briefly aired a TV show. It is interesting to note that during the "golden age" of Hollywood film and television, The Reporter was seldom staffed with more than 20 people. It was chiefly in the media boom of the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s that the employee roster increased.

Staffing at The Reporter, after spiraling down for several years, began to steadily increase in 2007. Since then, in addition to hiring Eric Mika, Rose Eintstein and Elizabeth Guider, The Reporter hired the following staff in 2007:

  • Todd Cunningham, former assistant managing editor of the LA Business Journal, as National Editor for The Hollywood Reporter: Premier Edition
  • Steven Zeitchik as Senior Writer, based in New York, where he provide news analysis and features for the Premiere Edition
  • Melissa Grego, former managing editor of TV Week, as Editor of HollywoodReporter.com
  • Jonathan Landreth as the new Asian bureau chief, in addition to 13 new writers across Asia

The Hollywood Reporter can pay very well or very poorly, depending on a talent or need for a given battle in the paper wars. This may or may not be a norm at trade journals in general, yet it is curious for well-heeled Tinseltown, where image over substance is the rule and inside information is worth millions. "High school with money" is a commonly voiced truism. Staff turnover during the Dowling years could be considered abnormally high by most corporate standards in publishing or other industries - beyond what may be measured as normal attrition. It has been said that even today, both The Reporter and to some extent, Variety, may still be "in transition" from the boutique days as small, independent, privately owned trade papers steeped in the back street shenanigans that made Hollywood work in an era long gone, although both trades were absorbed into large publishing firms many years ago run from the other coast.

Competition with Variety

In March 2007, The Hollywood Reporter surpassed Variety to achieve the largest total distribution of any entertainment daily.

Variety makes good use of its well-branded heritage as part of the Hollywood scene and culture, not just an observer reporting on it. The Reporter, on the other hand, is often considered by industry insiders as outside that circle looking in and continues to struggle with branding an image for itself, in spite of being established in Hollywood three years before Variety. For instance, Variety's "brand" continues to perpetuate awareness of their place in Hollywood culture in such old films as Singin' in the Rain, Yankee Doodle Dandy and TV shows like I Love Lucy, Make Room For Daddy and others. The Reporter has tried to do the same in recent years, with recent placements in TV shows like Entourage, which also prominently features Variety.

Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter both are located on Wilshire Boulevard along the well-trafficked "Miracle Mile." Staffers often migrate between the papers. There is a history of bad blood between the rivals bordering on the obsessive, sometimes petty and occasionally myopic. Variety was long established as an entertainment trade paper in Vaudeville circles, Tin Pan Alley and in the theatre district of New York City, but it was The Hollywood Reporter that began covering the developing film business in Hollywood in 1930. Variety didn't start its Hollywood edition until 1933.

The Hollywood Reporter maintains a business association with the home entertainment trade publication Home Media Magazine, which is owned by Questex Media Group. The alliance includes an exchange of stories when the need arises, and gives The Reporter access into the home entertainment trade, which Variety enjoys with its sister publication, the Reed-owned Video Business.

Today, news and analysis from The Reporter is also distributed through an exclusive partnership with Reuters entertainment wire services, which reaches 11 million subscribers each day.

The Reporter also reaches about 10 million readers each day through the Nielsen Entertainment News Wire, including the Chicago Sun Times, Newsday, San Jose Mercury News, Arizona Republic, Philadelphia Daily News and Toronto Star.

Notes

External links

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