The Media and the Moguls

The Times' Grudge Against Ovitz

The allegation of Times bias first reached me in March, when an Ovitz-watcher called to say that "Weinraub and Busch is the most conflicted byline." Weinraub, who started covering Hollywood in 1991, is said to have set the agenda for hard-nosed industry reporting. But the appearance of conflict attached to him after he married Columbia Pictures president Amy Pascal in 1997. In response, the Times announced it was taking Weinraub off certain stories about the industry—but in 1999, Brill's Content reported that the Times had bent the rules for him yet again. Ovitz went so far as to complain to then Times editor Joe Lelyveld, which did not endear him to Weinraub.

Busch is no slouch. After writing tough stories for Variety in the 1990s, she took over the Hollywood Reporter and tried to make it competitive with Variety. Then she resigned in a dispute over an article she published charging that a Reporter columnist had taken favors from producers. After a stint of freelancing, she was hired by the Los Angeles Times this past June.

According to two people who have worked with her, Busch is willing to trash people she doesn't like—and she hates Ovitz. (Once, when Ovitz was still at CAA, she wrote something that pissed him off. Knowing that Busch is allergic to monosodium glutamate, Ovitz sent her a bottle of the stuff in response, with the one-word note: "Enjoy.")

Ovitz's latest beef with Busch is that she is friends with Universal head Ron Meyer and supposedly plays pool with him three nights a week. As the head of a studio that was in partnership with AMG, Meyer was in a position to at least know about the AMG audit, Ovitz claimed in VF, insinuating that Meyer leaked the story to Busch.

Weinraub declined to comment and Busch could not be reached at press time.

Hypothetically speaking, does it matter if a reporter gets a tip from a powerful friend about someone neither of them likes? What counts these days, it seems, is that the resulting story made news.


cc@villagevoice.com

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