Variety says writers are being mean

by Paul William Tenny

You'd think that one of Hollywood's top trade mags would be thrilled over a strike by any of the big unions, as insiders and others turn to their pages as an authoritative source for what's going on, who wants what, and when it'll all come to an end. Something to be proud of, and a fantastic opportunity to raise your profile beyond reporting which studio bought which script and which over paid actor just signed a record deal for a movie nobody wants to go see.

And you'd be wrong.

Variety published a faux story Wednesday that reads more like an impassioned op-ed from the editor that amounts to begging writers to stop being mean to them. While Brian Lowry acknowledges the criticism, his defense is to blame it all on Rush Limbaugh and the divisive state of our political discourse where he would have you believe that any and all criticism leveled at the media in the past ten years is purely the result of bias and unrepentant angst.
It never occurs to Lowry that such accusations may in fact be true, to the point that he doesn't bother denying any of them at all. It's all just in the readers imagination, he'd have the world believe, and it's simply not Variety's problem to deal with some form of apparent mass delusion.

While it's certainly true that many people read media reports while wondering if they should simply accept what they're told, or question any possible motives pushing a certain point of view behind the scenes, there's actually a really good reason that: corporate media consolidation.

It's been getting worse every year that the United States exists under a majority Republican rule, as Republicans universally loath regulation of any form, much less over the media. While the country finds itself with a Democratic congress this year, such is not the case with the federal agency that is trying for a second time in three years to loosen the few regulations left that prohibit companies from owning more than X number of media outlets in a given market.

I don't know what those numbers are, but I do know that such suspicions over bias can be traced directly back to News Corp, which owns dozens of local television stations, a number of cable channels, the top broadcast network, newspapers, radio rations, and practically any other format you can imagine - and it owns a ton of them. If you think I'm sounding paranoid, consider that most paranoid people have been given good reason at some time or another to be that way, justified or not in the current situation, it's hardly ever a bad idea to keep your eye on the ball.

It may very well be that Variety thinks that it's reporting is balanced, and barring that, they are certainly free in this country of all places to have any bias they choose, but denying the obvious is really stretching the patience of people these days and is it any wonder that they don't trust big media anymore? People can accept a certain amount of spin because perceptions amongst the population are not anything close to universal, but when you go from that to denying reality altogether, you've got a problem.

Blaming it all on Rush Limbaugh who hasn't really contributed to this problem is really quite pathetic, though. Limbaugh is not a reporter and doesn't work for a news organization, his show is a private business endeavor that pays him to spew his own opinion. Variety is supposed to be a news outlet that reports the facts and leaves all that opinion stuff for the pundits (like me) and their readers. To defend bias and skewed reporting on someone who is an entirely different field - that of paid entertainment - is dishonest to say the least.

What Lowry wrote here when it concerns studio spin stands as perhaps one of the best examples of Variety being fed "news" on a silver platter by the studios whom the paper depends on for a significant chunk of their daily product.

This “All is well” bravado from studios since the writers walked has made execs look callously indifferent to the strike’s collateral damage. The guild, by contrast, effectively started stressing middle-class writers’ plight but has overreached with misguided flourishes like Jesse Jackson’s opportunistic appearance at last week’s Fox rally, couching what’s fundamentally a financial clash in civil-rights vernacular.

At first glance this seems like a reasonable thing to say when you're trying to convince people that both sides have their gripes and you're just stuck in the middle - until you go back about a week or two ago when Variety published a story straight from the depths of Viacom's PR department that the studios were well stocked and prepared for the strike and won't feel any of its effects anytime soon, which isn't really the true at all.

Most every studio was effected well before the strike started in having to do emergency rush jobs on scripts that weren't finished, make hard picks about what films to produce that did have scripts with no ability to rewrite them, and lacking real acknowledgment that every week the strike drags on will add to a gap in the production schedule since anything that would be written right now won't now be showing up in 2009.

There is nothing in Lowry's diatribe against writers that acknowledges pressure from big media or criticisms that Variety is being unfair to the studios, which is hardly surprising given the unbalanced coverage that favors big media.

Is it clear that such criticism exists and is taking some toll on Variety that they felt it necessary to defend themselves against these attacks, though they could have done themselves a huge favor by just keeping their mouths shut instead. This whining about blogs and writers being mean to them, that they feel it's even necessary to say anything, says a lot about either the little appreciated strength of blogs, or just what kind of guilty conscience Variety has.
in Labor, News


Related posts:

Leave a comment

View more stories by visiting the archives.

Media Pundit categories