Could The Hollywood Reporter, the true insiders’ pub for the entertainment biz, have been the first to break news of the sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein instead of The New York Times and The New Yorker?
Possibly. The magazine had certainly investigated the story, as Janice Min, its former editorial director, told the Times’ Maureen Dowd, noting: “We had white boards full of names of women [sources],” but Weinstein “was a master at protecting himself.”
Still, I’ve yet to see any trade magazine -- and THR, for all its glitzy coverage of Hollywood’s affluent lifestyle, is still a trade journal -- be the first to name names in any scandal so threatening to the status quo of its power players.
Trade magazines, of course, also face more limited ad revenue sources than general-interest consumer pubs. And like consumer pubs, they also face the “Gawker effect,” named for the media company effectively killed by its multimillion-dollar settlement of the Hulk Hogan lawsuit.
I don’t judge THR harshly for not being first on the Weinstein bus. In fact, I wanted to praise the pub, not bury it, when I heard earlier this year that it might be on the block.
Reports of a possible sale (not completed) by parent Eldridge Industries surfaced in February -- but now the mag has become freshly relevant for showing, from the inside, a business currently under fire.
As the sexual-harassment story widened, THR has, for example, published first-person accounts of misogyny by such industry figures as actress Gretchen Mol and film critic Sara Stewart. Stories carried headlines like “Hollywood's Female Crew Members Suffer Harassment Without the Platform of Stardom.”
That insider stance is one of the pub’s strongest assets, leveraged in fun yet insightful features from “Hollywood DSM: Industry Shrinks Reveal What's Wrong With Actors, Producers, Agents,” to the yearly “brutally honest” Oscar voter ballots that provide frank accounts by anonymous Motion Picture Academy members of why (or why not) they’re voting for various nominees.
And where else could you read a sentence like this, by editor-at-large Kim Masters, on how she copes with a long-winded star: “I used to have a rule: Never get on the phone with [Warren] Beatty unless you’ve gone to the bathroom first.”
THR provides a voyeuristic peek at an industry whose activities are often of interest to those outside it. That includes an affluent lifestyle covered in fashion pages ($1,000 jeweled T-shirts anyone?), and features on how to bring a family nanny to the Sundance Film Festival.
In fact, Min, who retooled the pub when she came onboard in 2010, “has consistently likened her revamp of THR to the glossy pages of iconic Condé Nast title Vanity Fair, but its subscriber numbers have never moved beyond a fraction of Graydon Carter’s monthly,” according to The Wrap.
Those low subscription figures -- along with losses reported to The Wrap in the neighborhood of $20 million last year, and “similar annual losses for the past several years” -- have led to the pub’s possible sale.
But if and when that happens, I hope its new owners can retain at least some of what makes THR a damned good publication.
In other words: Don’t change a platinum hair for me, Hollywood Reporter!