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Trade magazine Variety caught in ad scandal
Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Saturday, February 27, 2010
Right now it's looking rather embarassing for the ones managing the showbiz trade magazine Variety after a story broke on the Gawker website yesterday. The evidence assembled by Gawker's John Cook was pretty damning: that Variety had pulled a negative review of the film Iron Cross by freelancer Robert Koehler for a $400,000 ad campaign to support the film's chances for an Oscar nomination, the last starring role for actor Roy Scheider.
Iron Cross never got a single Oscar nom but the ads did run on Variety's site and in their print magazine. The $400K figure comes from a Los Angeles Times story back in November 2009 about the makers of Iron Cross trying to attain a Best Actor nomination for Scheider. After contacting Variety for a comment about the situation, the trade told Gawker that the trade "does not comment on internal matters."
Gawker got their hands on an email written by Joshua Newton, producer/director of Iron Cross, where he explains that Variety did pull their negative review because Koehler's review was "sloppy and grossly unfair" to his picture. You can read the email in full in Gawker's story.
For Variety, the Gawker article is a hard blow to the trade's credibility. Hit by the same wave of low advertising rates that effect all online websites (including this one; we're not immune to the recession) and watching its content get reposted immediately across the web after it breaks on its site, Variety has attempted to raise a wall that blocks those without a subscription from reading its news stories. One of Variety's best, Mike Fleming, fled to Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood where he's already reported several major stories. There's always been insinuations that the trades will soften the critical reception to movies in favor of ad buys for Oscar season, the time of year where shortfalls to company income can be made up. Up to now there hasn't been smoking gun evidence.
How this will turn out for Variety remains to be seen. Already the story is creating seismic ripples and being discussed by online film journos that keep an eye on the beat of the industry like CHUD's Devin Faraci and David Poland's Movie City News. The Hollywood Reporter has kept quiet about the Gawker story -- so far. It's possible that the damage may be significant enough that people will lose their jobs at the V.