AMPTP & WGA 'done deal' rumor doesn't pan out

by Paul William Tenny

Well that didn't take long, did it? Nikkie Finke's "very reliable source" who started a rumor which she happily reprinted on Monday either lied to her, or didn't really know anything to begin with. Her anonymous source said that "It's already done, basically" referring to a deal between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Motion Picture and Television producers. The two sides came together on the 26th for the first time since the strike began with the rumor coming out less than a day later.

Finke vouched for her source as having been "very accurate in the past", but I've yet to see a retraction or explanation as to why she published an unsubstantiated rumor that has now been proven flatly false. For somebody who used to be a real reporter and still writer for an L.A. paper, I'm continually disappointed by a person a lot of people place very high on a pedestal for being a fair and accurate source of information in a sea of spin.
I shouldn't have to explain to her or anybody else the danger in using a single anonymous source when that source has something to gain from spreading misinformation without the fear of reprisal. Indeed, since about the only place people go for these rumors is Finke's blog, it's pretty obvious that a statement - which she also published - sent out to the WGA membership was referring to this incident if not by name, certainly by refeence:

Our inability to communicate with our members has left a vacuum of information that has been filled with rumors, both well intentioned and deceptive.

Among the rumors was the assertion that the AMPTP had a groundbreaking proposal that would make this negotiation a "done deal." In fact, for the first three days of this week, the companies presented in essence their November 4 package with not an iota of movement on any of the issues that matter to writers.

Thursday morning, the first new proposal was finally presented to us. It dealt only with streaming and made-for-Internet jurisdiction, and it amounts to a massive rollback.

It's not hard to see what happened here, if the WGA is playing it straight and by all appearances they are: anyone close enough to the negotiations to know that a deal was in place would have had to have known when the rumor was started that neither side had even gotten beyond the proposals they were working with when the previous negotiations had fallen apart.

This is what happens when you spend time getting cozy enough to "insiders" in order to get that big scoop that you become blind to the possibility that with information comes a hidden agenda. On October 22nd, Finke wrote a post with the title "Hollywood Moguls Sounding Strike Happy And See New TV Season As Dead Already" in which she again repeated anonymous quotes that should have never been anonymous in the first place, that presented a point of view from the big media execs that was later directly contradicted by their own actions.

Even returning hit shows are losing their Nielsen luster (NBC's Heroes, ABC's Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, CBS' CSI:Miami and Cold Case) that they feel this is as as good a time for a strike as any. As one mogul told me, "We can get rid of the overhead and regroup and rethink everything. If we were having a great year, it might be different. But we're not, and this is like an automatic do-over."

These same network executives almost immediately ordered between four and six more scripts for many of their new fall shows even with the possibility of a strike less than ten days away. Even after the strike, a number of networks have given full season orders not only to sure bets like the Grey's Anatomy spin-off Private Practice, but also to struggling scripted dramas such as Life and Chuck

The downturn in viewership this year also isn't new, it's been trending downwards for a few years now and is complicated by a new landscape of DVRs and online downloads that nobody fully understands yet.

These are just two instances in the last five weeks where Finke has, for whatever reason, been spreading misinformation from sources she insists stay anonymous, even though she has been burned by them. It doesn't help that the only other places doing strike coverage in The Hollywood Reporter and Variety are basically mouthpieces for the big media companies, but this shouldn't be a contest about who is only "bad" and who is "worst."

I've been accused of talking out of my ear before (in far uglier terms) and I've made mistakes, that's not the problem I'm talking about. Honest mistakes are usually followed by honest admissions of failure and a change in the status quo so that such mistakes aren't repeated. Perhaps for me, the most unsettling thing about the way Finke "reports" is how she completely glazed over her own errors and continues on as if nothing had happened at all.

She does a lot of good work, but it's hard to appreciate it when things like this happen and are just shoved under the rug until the next time.
in Labor


Related posts:

Leave a comment

View more stories by visiting the archives.

Media Pundit categories