January 28, 2011
Vanity Fair mysteriously scraps Motion Picture Home story
Vanity Fair contributor David Margolick had spent a month doing round-the-clock reporting on the ongoing Motion Picture Home saga when VF editor Graydon Carter pulled the plug on the piece.
“I think there just wasn’t enough room for it, as far as I can tell,” Margolick said by phone from New York. “That’s what I was told.”
Margolick’s 5,000-word story was set to run in VF’s annual Hollywood Issue, a sumptuous dispatch on the industry, timed to coincide with the Oscars. A report at TheWrap.com speculated that the story might have been too “contentious” for Carter’s taste, noting that “in recent years [he] has abandoned hard-hitting reporting about the movie industry in favor of softer interviews and gauzy retrospectives.”
But TheWrap’s Editor in Chief, Sharon Waxman, has her own bone to pick with Vanity Fair. The magazine also reportedly cut a story about Waxman and her competitors—Deadline.com’s Nikki Finke and the Hollywood Reporter’s new head, Janice Min. Apparently, fierce grabs to dominate industry reporting are too gauzy.
Regarding the omission of the Motion Picture Home report, Margolick was not provocative, but practical: “There are a lot of stories vying to get in [to the Hollywood Issue] and this didn’t make it,” he said.
The fiery controversy surrounding the pending closure of long term care at The Motion Picture Home’s Wasserman Campus has tested the strength and resolve of many—from the home’s enfeebled residents and their courageous advocates, to the Hollywood power brokers presiding over the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF), and yes, even the reporters who attempt to tell the story.
Margolick would not address whether there had been intimidation tactics used to discourage VF’s editors from running his piece, but a spokesperson for the magazine said, “There was absolutely no pressure brought upon Vanity Fair.” (As someone who has also reported on the MPTF, I can attest to the fact that the fund can be extremely resistant to cooperating with press, because they did, in fact, make it difficult for me to proceed on several occasions). For his part, Margolick dismissed the idea that the fund could threaten the prestigious Conde Nast publication: “I think that when Vanity Fair comes to write about something like this, the parties have to deal with it. They have to grapple with it. I think that everybody was candid and comprehensive maybe in a way they hadn’t been before.”
He insisted there was little reason for the MPTF to be oppositional.
“My story was not a screed,” he said judiciously. “And it’s not a polemic against one side or another. This is a complicated issue and I spent a lot of time listening to both sides very intensely; it was a very research-intensive and interview-intensive story and I think it raises very important issues.”
In TheWrap’s coverage of the VF issue, Waxman was quick to point out Margolick had learned of the Motion Picture Home controversy from her news site. But that was only the tip of a very large iceberg, Margolick explained, and the paucity of scrupulous coverage in the mainstream press impelled him to dig deeper.
“In media there’s a premium on immediacy and immediacy is given preference over in-depth reporting,” he said. “There’s much more of a premium on breaking stories than digging in.”
“I’m not surprised that The Wrap didn’t do the long take on this story because that’s not what they do,” he added. “But I am a little surprised that more mainstream media didn’t do it. I think it’s interesting that the best story to date on this was in The Jewish Journal, and it’s puzzling that it wouldn’t have appeared somewhere else because this story raises all kinds of important issues as well as implicates some of the most important people in Hollywood.”