I’m told that Universal has banned a Hollywood trade reporter for what it considered to be unethical journalism: putting off-the-record remarks by the boss on the record.
Here’s what happened, according to my sources:
Ron Meyer, president and COO of Universal Studios, recently instructed his head of corporate communications to inform the publicity staff that the Hollywood Reporter‘s Anne Thompson is persona non grata to every executive there. Not only is no one supposed to talk to her, but she is barred from attending screenings and premieres, eating at the commissary, parking on the lot, or doing any other function at the studio that Universal has control over. Security will be called if she’s found there. The reason, Meyer told his people, was that Thompson had knowingly and deliberately burned him by taking off-the-record remarks he’d given her about the progress of that Stacey Snider-is-leaving-for-Dreamworks story and putting them on the record in her article. Meyer informed insiders that Thompson had admitted to him she’d done that and anticipated he would get mad about it, but refused to be repentant about it. Meyer complained to Thompson’s editors. Then he banned her from the Universal lot.
I reached Thompson, who writes HR‘s Risky Business column, to get her side of the story. After declining at first to talk about the situation, she finally told me just this: “His remarks were on the record.” But I understand Thompson privately thought of the matter as a misunderstanding stemming from her not calling up Meyer and asking for his permission to use his quotes before the article appeared in the paper. Also, the extent of the ban surprised her: she apparently thought she simply wouldn’t be allowed to attend Universal movie premieres.
Cynthia Littleton, the HR‘s newly appointed editor, declined all comment.
This is a reaction Meyer hasn’t taken since moving to Universal in 1995 and one that no studio head has ordered in recent memory. Meyer is supposed to be an Industry nice guy; Thompson is supposed to be a seasoned entertainment journalist. The rules of engagement are ordinarily clear-cut. Stay tuned for updates.