Tim Gray, editor of Variety, was given full responsibility for the news organization’s operations on Monday as longtime editor-in-chief Peter Bart was bumped upstairs. Gray was grilled in early afternoon, just after a first staff meeting.
Congratulations on your new job. But it is a daunting environment for Variety and all print publications. What are your immediate plans?
I want to sit down with (Variety President) Neil Stiles and say, "We have daily papers, weekly papers, and the web. Let’s get a mandate for each one of them. They’ve gotten a little blurry."
What are your specific plans for each?
I’d love to say, "Here’s the three campaign pledges I have on cleaning up this paper." But it’s going to keep evolving. That’s a sappy answer, but I’ll get back to you in two months.
It seems like you’re placing a lot of stock in the print product?
Most of my experience is in print. I represent a certain continuity, but I also represent a certain amount of change. I said to the staff just a little bit ago, "We’ve changed a lot in 10 years." You have to keep evolving, changing. This is another change. But it’s not going to be radical. We’re not going to be US Weekly.
We have to ask: "What can we give the readers better than anyone else can give them?" People trust us. That’s good. I think our people are good at analysis. Not only here’s what happens, but here’s what it means, here’s why you should care.
What about the competition from bloggers?
The truth is, everybody is competition, and nobody is. Everybody wants the scoop, wants to be there first. But I don’t believe anybody in the world, much less Hollywood, gets their news from one source.
What are your plans for Variety.com, which has been losing readership?
I think it will be changing. Variety.com and print have been hugely overlapping. I’m thinking: Does that make sense anymore? A lot of people read Variety.com who don’t subscribe, and vice versa.
I think one of the goals is to get a distinctive identity for all of them. With the web, if you said to people — "What are three things you like better about the web than anything else?" They’d have to get back to you on that one. The goal is to give it an identity.
How do you do that?
If I knew the answer to that, I’d be the richest man in world.But it’ll be an evolution, rather than a revolution. You won’t log on to Variety.com and say, "Whoa, I get it." We’ll try stuff.
What about Nikki Finke? What’s the story with wanting to buy her site?
Honest to God, I don’t know. Nikki does what she does, we do what we do, I don’t know that it’s the same thing. That’s a good question. I’m going to ask (Neil) myself. What is the story behind that? The idea of buying a blog or website is a good idea. Some websites are a perfect match for us.
That calls for speculation from the witness. I’m going to wait and tell that to Neil first.
Will there be more layoffs at Variety?
I hope not. I HOPE. NOT. I would love to tell the staff "we’re all safe." But in this economy I can’t make any promises. I wish I could. A lot of it depends on the economy.
Related: What Would You Pay to Own Nikki Finke?