UPDATE: A Fox spokesperson issued a public denial tonight. “The Defamer.com story about the Studio banning CAA from the Fox lot, is categorically untrue. The exchange, which took place well over a year ago, between a Fox executive and a CAA agent — that supposedly triggered the ‘ban’ — never at any point escalated to the level and language as reported on Defamer.com.”
The gossip website Defamer today is running word-for-word with a CAA-Fox story which an anonymous tipster emailed me two weeks ago. But the website failed to do what I did: I checked it out exhaustively, and, even though I’ve come down harder on CAA than any media outlet over the years, I found that the facts weren’t anything like the story which the tipster was passing along. In fact, the truth was not newsworthy. (I’m not linking because the Defamer blogger who wrote it gets paid by the page view. So don’t reward someone for inaccurate info…) That’s also the same gossip website and blogger that recently reported erroneously that Tracey Jacobs was leaving United Talent when she wasn’t. Yes, reporting on Hollywood agents would be so much easier if only pesky facts didn’t get in the way. But here’s what really annoys me: supposedly reputable news outlets and reporters are now picking up erroneous information from gossip websites like Defamer. This is wrong on so many levels that I’m dismayed. Which is why I’ve decided to go behind-the-scenes of one such egregious and recent example of a showbiz reporting inaccuracy:
Back on April 9th, I broke the somewhat stunning news here that superstar Robert DeNiro had left his longtime talent agency CAA. At 10:54 PM that day, an anonymous comment signed “A CAA Agent” was made to my post (see #11). I had no way of knowing whether it was written by a CAA agent. Because of that, I never would have dreamed of making it part of DHD’s editorial section. But other reporters did, to my shock.
Two days later, on April 11th, Defamer (via Stu VanAirsdale, the same gossip blogger who made the errors above) picked up the comment, erroneously claiming in the headline that a “None-Too-Bitter CAA Rep Has Some Choice Parting Words Of Advice For Robert De Niro”. In the body of the post, Defamer claimed the comment had been written by “an anonymous CAA operative” without ever verifying that.
Enter Anne Thompson, who on April 15th erroneously wrote on her Variety blog that “an ‘anonymous agent’ from CAA posted this online comment on the departure of Robert DeNiro [sic] which is now getting emailed all over town”. She linked back to the Defamer item.
On the morning of April 21st, Patrick Goldstein prominently reprinted “a venomous response purportedly from one CAA agent that was e-mailed all over town” in his LA Times column about Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. He even lent credence to the comment he reprinted. As his source, he linked back to Thompson’s Variety blog.
Indeed, the LA Times‘ involvement is particularly unsettling — not just because of Chuck Philips’ recent reporting meltdown (that necessitated a retraction of his very wrong story that Sean “Diddy” Combs orchestrated an attack on Tupac Shakur), but also because of the newspaper’s own sourcing policy (that will now result in written reprimands and reduced raises if violated). But I alerted both Goldstein and his editor Betsy Sharkey about his column’s inaccuracy, and both have refused to correct it. What does this say to readers? Especially when Goldstein is about to start blogging daily.
Then, on April 30th, Slate.com’s Kim Masters excerpted what she claimed was “a memo, supposedly created by an anonymous CAA agent in the wake of De Niro’s recent departure from the agency [which] has been pinging around the Hollywood blogosphere for a couple of weeks now, but we pass it along in part…” She linked to the Alternative Film Guide blog whose Andre Soares at least correctly sourced it back to an anonymous comment on DHD.
And so it comes full circle.
I’ve since confirmed that not one of these reporters went to CAA and officially asked about the random Internet comment that originated on my site. As CAA spokesman Michael Mand told me with a sigh: “Anyone can claim to be whoever they want on the Internet.” One CAA partner was especially outraged over Goldstein’s inaccuracy and fumed to me, “The blurring of it all is astounding, anonymous comments cited as sources. Everybody is so damn desperate to be relevant and beat the Internet that it’s making good journalists betray themselves.”
I couldn’t have said it better.