Rupert Murdoch’s iPad newspaper The Daily got its first attention for exclusive content (save a semi-viral James Franco graphic) this morning when it published a picture purported to be of Nikki Finke, the infamous Hollywood blogger and recluse behind Deadline.com, who refuses to be photographed and rarely leaves her house. But knowing full well they’d face opposition and threats of litigation from the notoriously batty Finke, they couched the coup in questions: “Is this the most powerful woman in Hollywood?” Now, the plot thickens: Finke says it’s not her and so does her contemporary, The Wrap’s Sharon Waxman. Did The Daily knowingly publish a photo of not-Finke on purpose, just for the attention? Find out inside Press Clips, our daily media column. Plus, Gawker editors embarrass themselves on Twitter! As always, tips (and complaints!) are welcome.
Where in the World is Nikki Finke?: The Daily credited its “intrepid photographer” with snagging “this image of a blond woman who exited Finke’s building and behind the wheel of a peppermint green Toyota Yaris.” The only sources in the article said, “It looks like Nikki,” but couldn’t be sure. The headline and first sentence cleverly feature question marks, leading one to believe that the photo is Finke, but never really coming out and saying so. But the bottom line is that it’s not Finke, according to both her and The Wrap editor Sharon Waxman, who told Runnin’ Scared she is 100% certain the photo is not of the shadowy blogger.
For her part, Finke told Gawker, “my nose and chin are different. I don’t have those very pronounced mouthlines. I never wear industrial strength make-up (especially not blood red lipstick). I don’t own gaudy jewelry. I wear my hair different now. Etc.” Bluntly, she said, “It is, in fact, not me.” She echoed that to the Observer: “All I can say to them is: nobody ever took my photo!”
At The Wrap, editor Sharon Waxman, who “has known Finke for years… agrees that the woman pictured is not Finke.” But that’s where it gets more interesting:
The Wrap previously wrote that The Daily reporter chasing the story was Hunter Walker, previously of The Wrap. His ex-boss, Waxman, wrote that News Corp. had waited to publish the picture in The Daily “until Walker could find two sources to verify the identity of the person in the photograph.” Did he think to call his old boss, who has competed and been acquainted with Finke for years? No, said Waxman, and now “they look ridiculous.”
After more than week without a buzzed about scoop, Richard Johnson’s gossip desk needed a hit. And the fact is, they got one: whether or not the photo is Finke, and it seems more and more certain that it’s not, it got people talking. And not just any people, but a core base of reporters and media-obsessed early adopters, who will be crucial in propagating The Daily‘s content in its early stages as a publication. Yahoo’s media blog The Cutline, for example, said The Daily “claimed its first genuine scoop.” We said it looked legit, but that it also could be “every woman over the age of 40 who owns an apartment in Westwood.”
But then where does that leave The Daily in terms of believability? “They’ve gotten a lot of attention,” said Waxman, but “you run a risk when you cry wolf.” From the looks of what they did publish, News Corp. and The Daily ran it all through lawyers to assure they were in the clear — knowing full well that Finke had already threatened litigation — but with little concern as to whether the journalism was accurate, so long as they were legally safe and newsworthy. Waxman put it bluntly: “It’s success at the expense of credibility for a news organization.”
Of course, Waxman and Finke have a testy relationship of their own, while Walker, who relocated to Los Angeles to work at The Wrap, stayed less than six months under Waxman. Individual agendas abound. But no matter the truth about the photo and various personal dramas aside, it still adds up to something amusing, for a certain set. And that’s likely what The Daily was banking on.
Elsewhere in the insider’s universe…
Gawker Traffic Spat: Gawker editor-in-chief Remy Stern’s Twitter fight with ex-Gawker editor Gabriel Snyder over their performance records is available in full at The Awl, a blog started by two ex-Gawker editors. (If your head hasn’t already exploded, read the puns in the comments.)
Roger Ailes and Co. Book Coming: Gabriel Sherman, a New York magazine contributing editor, is planning a book on Fox News called The Loudest Voice in the Room. That’s Michael Wolff you hear trying to shout louder.
Women Reign at B5: Meghan Keane has been named the Editorial Director of B5Media, as per a press release this afternoon, replacing Elizabeth Spiers, who just took over as the editor-in-chief of the New York Observer. Keane leaves behind editor duties at B5 site Crushable, where Lilit Marcus will take over, leaving another B5 property, The Gloss. There, Jennifer Wright, formerly the deputy editor, moves up. We repeat: all women.