With the departure of Patrick Goldstein, the Los Angeles Times loses an authoritative, insider’s voice covering the entertainment industry, diminishing its relevancy in a brutally competitive news space.
Curious choice for a paper that spends a good deal of energy selling itself to Hollywood advertisers as a trade. Curious for a paper whose editorial ambition has long been to “own Hollywood.”
Why would they do that?
I’ve no doubt that Goldstein — a friend and colleague for many years but who declined to be interviewed for this piece — may not be the easiest customer in a newsroom. He likes to work from home. He is not a fan of blogging. He disdains the digital pace. He did not thrill to suggestions from editors.
But this time assistant managing editor for arts and entertainment editor John Corrigan — who also recently replaced Sallie Hofmeister — was determined to exert more control over the journalist, according to my sources.
He gave Goldstein a choice: go back to being a regular reporter and give up the column, or leave. Goldstein chose to leave, though I’m not quite sure why he and the paper have been coy about saying so.
Corrigan, a former business editor new to the entertainment space, is presumably making these changes with the support of the paper's new editor Davan Maharaj. But to lose both Goldstein and Hofmeister — with her strong connections to Hollywood and her deep rolodex — in such a short span is certainly a blow to the paper's credibility in the industry.
It’s not news that Goldstein's editors long chafed against his independent habits. The sales department complained that some of Goldstein’s columns discomfited big movie-studio advertisers. (So what? that’s journalism.)
And some colleagues found him arrogant, though just as likely they were jealous of somebody who could pick his topics, write when he wanted, get his mug on a column and draw a big salary, which he did. (That salary got bigger after the Hollywood Reporter tried to hire him away a couple of years ago.)
To all that I’d say: So what? The Times, mired in financial disarray and near-constant editorial turmoil, can ill afford the departure of a familiar face and reliable, independent voice for readers. The paper will only lose more ground in a sector where so much of its advertising revenue resides and where so many competitors, including us, have aggressively moved.
The studios might not have liked when Goldstein took aim at their focus on “sequels, remakes, reboots,” as he repeated in his last column on Wednesday, with the headline, “What Hollywood Needs Is an Original Thought.”
But tough insight is what good journalists offer. And the studios liked it well enough when Goldstein did his semi-regular survey of going to the movies with a group of teenagers to take the pulse of youth culture.
He should’ve broken stories. He could’ve been blogging. He might have written more often. I’m not saying Patrick Goldstein was the cure for what ails the Times.
But with Goldstein gone, the paper loses a Rolodex built over three decades of reporting in the trenches of popular culture. There are few journalists anywhere who can pick up the phone and get through to just about anybody at the top of the food chain in music, movies or television.
Goldstein can. And yet his farewell came in a curious fashion, buried in his weekly “Big Picture” column that gave no reason for the end of the column, nor did it say whether he’s leaving the paper. (He is, as spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan told TheWrap on Wednesday.)
I’m sad to see him go. But that’s just one person’s opinion. Down on Spring Street, they’d be smart to start grooming another Patrick Goldstein to replace the one they just pushed out.