What Really Happened With Lynne Segall…

When I started Deadline Hollywood in March 2006, I did it to create a different kind of media outlet that told the truth about showbiz. It also meant I would be destroying (or destroyed by) the Hollywood promotional machine that for so long was able to dictate to too many editors and reporters at the trades when an article would be published and how that article would be written, all in the furtherance of what can only called advertorial (advertisement in the form of editorial). This is why I’ve always insisted on having complete editorial and design control over everything Deadline. However, maintaining that became a struggle as soon as Lynne Segall in the summer of 2010 became a consultant with the title of Vice President/Publisher of MMC Entertainment after she was fired by the Los Angeles Times. We’d been collegial but never worked together, and, yes, I was well aware of her many controversial print ad products which crossed the line between editorial and advertising. But I wasn’t seeking those from her. So I was instrumental in bringing her in to help Deadline because I thought of her as a tireless ad sales machine with great Hollywood connections. Let me say from the outset, that’s as true now as it was then. But let me also ask: at what cost to journalism integrity?

Because, from Day One of her consultancy, I felt like I was battling the force of darkness at every turn.

I have emails to back up everything I’m saying here. And I never once had these kinds of problems with Deadline’s primary ad salesman Nic Paul, Senior Director of Entertainment Sales for my parent company. But as soon as Lynne arrived, she began trying to break down the wall I’d carefully and deliberately erected between Deadline’s editorial product and my parent company’s advertising department.

Almost immediately, she tried to stop me from criticizing Jeff Zucker and NBC Universal because he’d ordered his TV and movie operations not to advertise on Deadline (something I hadn’t even been aware of because of the wall I’d erected) and because she held out hope of chasing NBC’s very lucrative “Fall Tune-In” dollars. I repeatedly told her not to interfere with my editorial control. I found out later to my shock and dismay that she’d taken it upon herself to assure NBC that she could get me to lay off Zucker if only NBC Universal would start advertising.

After this initial push and pushback between us, Segall began to realize that I was no pushover. And it made her very, very unhappy. I truly don’t think she’d ever worked before with an editor-in-chief who’d said ‘No’ to her priority of placing the almighty ad dollar above editorial ethics. Again and again, she’d ask me to tone down honest stories I’d already written. Or she’d find out from the marketplace about honest stories I intended to write and ask me to spike them. Or she’d go behind my back to my staff and try to assign coverage of specific advertisers.

Each and every time, I told her to stick it where the sun don’t shine — at first politely, then much less so.

But the unravelling of our working relationship really took place over Lynne’s insistence on expanding Deadline’s online presence into the print medium. By her own admission, she was much more comfortable selling print ads after an entire career in publishing. When she brought the idea of Deadline awards publications to me soon after she began her consultancy, I told her it wasn’t possible for me and my small (but elite) staff to take on even more work. Speaking just for myself, I was reporting and writing and running the website almost 24/7. I reminded Segall that Deadline wasn’t the LA Times which has editors and writers up the wazoo. And I explained that I didn’t think it would be cost effective to hire a separate print staff since Deadline’s strength is that it’s lean and mean and therefore can control quality and stretch ad dollars.

When I nixed the idea, Segall went behind my back. She started selling Deadline awards publications to advertisers without my permission. She set a Deadline awards publications schedule without my input. She arranged a Deadline awards publications party without my authorization. But, then, and this to me was unforgiveable, she secretly started putting together the first Deadline awards publication without my involvement.

As I later discovered to my horror, she designed the cover image and assigned the copy based on who was taking the most advertising. Under her guidance, she planned that first Deadline print publication to be advertorial but to use my brand and my name on the masthead to give it integrity. Suffice it to say her print edition never saw the light of day.

Because of the commitments she had made to advertisers, I felt compelled to rush together 5 Deadline awards publications virtually by myself. Then she arranged with advertisers for two more issues without telling me. She also violated my editorial and design control over Issue #6 by helping arrange for it to be sent to the printer without my final oversight, even though it bore Deadline’s brand on the cover and my name on the masthead. I demanded she come clean to advertisers about this: she never did. After I was done with all 7 Awards print editions, I suffered exhaustion and worsened insulin-dependent diabetes. She didn’t care. (Though I had been compassionate about her eye surgeries.)

When I discovered the extent of what Lynne had done behind my back, I told her our working relationship was finished. Her mantra back to me was, “But think of all the money we’re making!” as if that justified what she had done. To which I replied, “I’m not about the money. I’m a journalist.” I later agreed to forgive her and wipe the slate clean — but only after she apologized (she did) and agreed to respect my editorial and design control over all things Deadline (she promised), and informed advertisers about Issue #6 (she never did).

Then I discovered in late May that she had been selling 4 Deadline Emmy print editions to advertisers without my permission. And she set a Deadline Emmy awards publications schedule without my input. Again, I told her to come clean to advertisers because Deadline was not going to publish these issues. She claimed she had gone back and made that clear. But she didn’t. At this point I had to stop her from ruining the integrity of Deadline. I told Lynne we were finished and that I wanted nothing more to do with her. Again, I felt compelled to fulfill the commitments she had made to advertisers, so I just recently put out 2 Emmy print editions with TVLine. (FYI, for the 2011-2012 Oscar and Emmy Awards season, Deadline will continue to publish print editions but on my schedule and my terms.)

I am explaining all this because I believe in transparency. (Full Disclosure: I am contractually prevented from disclosing information about my parent company, so I have confined this posting to only my own relationship with Lynne.) I don’t blame Segall for the above because, as one of her pals told me today, “It’s just in Lynne’s DNA. You’re all about editorial integrity, and she’s all about ad dollars. And she can’t understand where you’re coming from.” Which is why she’s now replaced fired publisher Lori Burgess at the new celeb lifestyle The Hollywood Reporter. I consider Segall and THR a perfect fit. (See my Summit Scandal At The Hollywood Reporter.) I have no doubt she will sell lots of print ads for their weekly advertorial because she’s very good at that. But at Deadline, journalism has and will always come first.

    1. Yes …
      It IS what you are not saying about the just as evil “parent” (I use the term loosely) company that we will say for you.

      There is no way in HELL that the Nikki I know and love would have ever put up with that BS ad-witch for that long … if it were not for her parent company forcing her down Nikki’s throat and defending her blatant greed and thievery all the way to the bank.

      This is what we warned you of and you have held the course and stayed the ark … even though I’m sure mommy and daddy are hating that you stayed this strong.

      You are the babe!

      Wish we cold get more of the original Nikki stories back, but that’s the name of game. Money is why they bought you out and money is why they will continue to they to screw you.

      HANG IN THERE NIKKI. Give em hell.

      Don’t let them put the advertisers first.
      (God I hate those pop-ups and sneaky make-you-wait to read the story “got you trapped now” advertisements!)

      It just makes me hate the advertisers!!!!!!!! Seriously.

      Mic

      1. Lynne Segall is at the top of her game. She is tireless and has made it her job to get in with all the right people in Hollywood.

        1. No one, including Nikki, has said anything different. It’s just her style of doing business didn’t fit the Deadline model. She’ll flourish at The Hollywood Reporter.

    2. Congratulations, Nikki, on maintaining a strong journalistic spine against attempts at advertorial spin.

    1. There is place for what Nikki does and there is a place for what Lynne does.

      They just happen to be very very different places. And thanks, Nikki, for keeping it that way.

      1. There may be a place “for what Nikki does and what Lynn does” but there is no place for lying and going behind someone’s back and then doing it again. In a way, Nikki looks good for not standing for it any longer but she also looks like a bit of a dolts for not knowing what was happening with her own vendors. The fact that Nikki was “forced” to publish an awards issue for the Oscars bothers me. The fact that it happened again with the Emmys is just plain strange. I like the new look of THR but I never read anything inside as I know it’s all bullshit. For that, we in the business depend on Deadline Hollywood and Nikki. We love you Nikki, but keep a better eye out…mostly, behind you.

    1. So this woman was basically some kind of double agent, entering your business with an agenda to shut you down on the behalf of studios, executives and stars. Sort of like Warren Beatty offering Pauline Kael a development deal to keep her from writing reviews way back when.

  1. I just want to say I have great respect for what you wrote here.

    I have no part or stake in your industry, I am strictly saying this as a person who reads both words and between the lines.

  2. Thanks, Nikki, for standing up! Another reason why Hollywood looks to you for the REAL news of the business of entertainment.

  3. We thank you for fighting the good fight and this story perfectly illustrates why and how you have earned our trust and respect.

  4. sounds like Lynne would’ve welcomed an opportunity to sell an ad for this article, or maybe she is too busy regretting not remembering to not get into a war of words with someone who buys ink by barrel (…so to speak)

  5. Nikki, first let me say that you mentioned the toll this took on your diabetes and I wish you well with managing it–stress is not worth the toll on one’s body.

    I am not writing to dispute your account as I was not with your company or at THR. I did work at THR for years and Lynne Segall, as with any media executive, has heard the word ‘no’ before and often.

    Your site and staff are popular and vital. You have one of the best, Nellie Andreeva, writing for you and I can say with certainty having worked with her that she has never played any advertorial games in her prior employ at THR, even when pushed by the studios or networks to go along with hokum and ingenuousness.

    As a former THR staff member who worked 70 hour weeks for years, I can say that my service was never to further any ‘advertorial’ agenda. Yes, ads are important, but in editorial work there was no thought to that. I do not work at THR and am gainfully employed elsewhere so I don’t have any other agenda here but to ask: can’t all of the reputable media outlets–trades, smaller outlets and your powerful site–co-exist without charges of selling out and advertorial slants that just.aren’t.true.

    I say this not in the service of executive egos but for the people whose names never appear here and who either have worked or are working to keep media trade journalism alive and integral. For example, DHD has gotten kudos all over the media sphere for the studio and Oscar nom ads that ran last season. I didn’t question how they got there, it was just apparent that the studios felt DHD equally worthy of online advertising. I didn’t confuse your staff with these ads and only thought ‘DHD is doing well.’ The editorial space in media now is hard enough as it is and I think everyone who is working hard at it deserves the benefit of the doubt as to having some integrity and passion for the work. I can see your passion is evident and as someone who used to read about all of the ‘press release’ re-writing we were supposedly doing, it’s not true and for those who do that, they should be called out by name and not painted with such a wide, dismissive brush.

    I wish you well and will continue to read any site or publication with good writing. Thanks.

    1. When I worked at The Hollywood Reporter, it was my impression that Lynne really never understood anything but print. Technology and Lynne just didn’t seem to mix, so it’s not surprising that she tried to capitalize on the web venue with print once again. And, Nikki, Lynne Segall NEVER “got” the division between advertising sales and editorial.

      She was all about selling ads, and she DID sell ads.

      As a former editor at The Hollywood Reporter, I was interrupted by Lynne from time to time in my office where she would complain about one story or another. I listened to her and then dismissed it. This happened with former editors Alex Ben Block and Terri Ritzer as well. In fact, I saw both of them stand up to her, and I saw other editors stand up as well. Your impression of the trade’s newsroom folding to advertising pressure or allowing Hollywood to dictate coverage just doesn’t jive with what I experienced.

      Lynne is an in-your-face type of personality. She was like that with advertisers as well as with staff. Bold and brassy.

      Prior to being an editor, I was a reporter, and I and many other reporters can tell you endless stories where Lynne would show up bright and early to ask questions and complain about this story or that, throwing her weight around to log her opinion about what should have been written. By the way, she threw her weight around in other departments, too, not just editorial.

      The first time she blustered into the newsroom in the old Sunset Blvd. building of THR, it was jarring because I personally had never experienced an advertising sales rep breaching a newsroom to try to dictate and manipulate editorial content to benefit advertising sales revenue. It’s unheard of. There was a solid wall between the newsroom and the ad dept. always. When I questioned her behavior, one reporter told me, ‘Just ignore her. She does it all the time.”

      So, I complained to publisher Bob Dowling about it when it first happened, and he stopped it for awhile. But truth be told, you can’t really stop Lynne. She couldn’t help herself, and eventually she’d find her way back into the newsroom. A padlocked door couldn’t have kept her out.

      One reason she never respected the newsroom wall is because she was selling “special issues” that was allowed and expanded under publisher Bob Dowling to create a profitable ad revenue stream as the print era was peaking. THR was a Mom and Pop publication that had no corporate oversight so she could run things as she saw fit. Bad habits die hard. And, of course, she worked with her friend George Christy who had no problem promoting advertisers, like retailer Roots, in his columns.

      I always thought though that Lynne had a good heart, and always meant well. That is, until I saw her true colors. After I left the Reporter, it came back to me that she was slamming me behind my back over petty things. Why, I had no idea as I always treated her kindly. It was things like, oh, like — I didn’t want a reserved parking spot because I was paranoid. (The truth is I don’t believe that editors should get reserved parking spots if reporters and other staff members weren’t given the same courtesy). It saddened me.

      But, to Lynne, it’s all about spin. Like I said, she just can’t help herself. Be prepared for the spin now, because believe me, it’s coming.

      1. Good to read your comments, Anita. I read you every day when you were in the middle of it at THR, for many years!

      2. Thank you Anita and Nikki for your integrity.

        Lynne may not be able to help herself, but we can take a stand about what we choose to read. Doesn’t sound like she’s evolved much over the years and will be left behind.

      3. And, at some point, you gotta stop bashing the trades. Some of the best journalists I’ve ever worked with were at Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. And if the journalists at the trades were so doggone awful, then why do you have so many former trade reporters working for you?

      4. Anita, I enjoyed reading your thoughts and observations, but I wanted to address something. It’s admirable that you want reporters and other staff to receive reserved spaces if you do, but it’s not about making one person feel or look more important than another. Editors, tv showrunners (one of whom brought this point up on Twitter–I believe it was Jeff Lieber), anyone who gets the reserved spaces in the front, they don’t get them because they’re the smartest and most talented person in the room to which all others must bow down. They get them because, while trying to achieve excellence, they need to be there the latest. If that applies to you, then please, by all means take the reserved spot. You’re putting enough time and energy into doing what you do well, so for practical reasons you deserve this. It’s not a power play.

        1. JK, I started my career in publishing in production. I learned by working my way through the ranks that every person’s job at a newspaper is as important as everyone else’s. I saw editors leave at 5 p.m. on the dot to go home, as if they were watching the clock tick down for recess, while reporters and production people worked long and hard into the night. It wasn’t about that, and is never about that at a newspaper. It is ego and pomp.

        2. JK, I began my career in publishing in production. In journalism, every person’s job is as important as everyone else’s. Over the years, I saw editors leave at 5 p.m. sharp to go home, watching the clock tick down as if waiting for recess, while copy editors, reporters and production people worked long into the night. It had nothing to do with who had to be their latest. It has to do with ego and pomp.

        3. as a show runner i can tell you that i’ve worked hard to get my own space. its part of my compensation for putting my neck on the line 24/7. I started as a tv station receptionist and worked every job in the biz (except makeup). I think i’ve earned the parking spot. And yes, i put in early and late hours but I have a thing about the lunacy in production of working crazy hours – Tv isn’t really that hard to do, it’s just poorly managed. On my shows i try to get everyone home in time for dinner.

  6. Nikki, I never would think that advertising would alter the editorial content of Deadline- one iota. I wonder if you look in the mirror now and say…”Is it really worth it?”.

    JZ

  7. Hollywood Reporter is corrupt in my opinion. Any entity that bases quality of content on money and relationships is corrupt.
    Thank you Nikki.

    I’d love to see transparency in the world of scriptwriting, sales, assignments. We have seen you do it on the business side. But it’s time to hear who the money writers are, why they make big bucks despite lack of quality and even box office. Think about it.

  8. You go, Nikki! If only more of these shady folks would get put on blast. What really happens around here would shock America. Lots of people in this business are greedy, unethical and have as much of a holier-than-thou attitude than the politicians, corporate giants and Bible thumpers they loathe and despise. The only difference is, people in the business have motive and ACCESS to skew the publicity on and content of what is produced and talked about. Wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  9. More respect for the Nikster. Good luck with the diabetes. Its hard to imagine anything could get the best of you. Stay strong.

  10. Nikki, you’re a class above the rest.

    As much as i love reading the news here, your health is above all else. Take good care of yourself.

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