Hollywood, beware: the Los Angeles Times has decided to pursue the type of tabloid journalism associated with the National Enquirer. I have learned that reporter Kim Christensen is working on an article about studio mogul Ron Meyer’s gambling history. It is a history that is years old, that has never impacted his professional work, and that is not illegal. Nor has Meyer, in his 12th year as president and COO of Universal Studios, tried to keep his gambling a secret: he has routinely informed all his employers about this over the years. (I myself have known all about his high-stakes poker games for eons… his Hollywood friends have known all about it for eons… and Julia Phillips mentioned it in her autobiography, You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again.) Further, there is no apparent peg for his gambling to be made public now — especially since Meyer hasn’t gambled in years. Yet Christensen is pursuing the story nonetheless, convinced there is some convoluted Pellicano link to it. (FYI, I understand Pellicano and Meyer never once talked about his gambling…) I could understand if the mogul chose to talk about his gambling history and therefore sought out the Los Angeles Times. But, instead, the paper is trying to drag the info out of the mogul. I am aghast. I, for one, pride myself on being a tough reporter, but I and other serious business journalists draw the line: we go after what execs do in their work, but not what they do in their personal life if it has no bearing on business. It’s simply wrong. (And, by the way, this is the second time Christensen has gone after Meyer’s personal life, and, as I posted here at the time, that article contained numerous inaccuracies not to mention unreliable sources.) What I also don’t understand is why the LA Times is choosing to spend its limited investigative resources on this when there are stories so much more worthy of probing about the business of Hollywood itself — especially with a strike likely this year — that the paper just lets slide year after year. (And if the attempt is to titillate readers, there are far more scandalous stories out there about Hollywood moguls’ personal behavior impacting their professional work. But, as I said, this story doesn’t fall into that category.) My opinion is that Christensen and his editors should be ashamed of themselves. (My calls today to both staff writer Christensen and editor Jim O’Shea have not yet been returned.) If Hollywood had any guts, then the most important people in this industry would call the Los Angeles Times to complain. Or refuse to cooperate with reporters there. Or stop advertising in its pages. Recognize you could be the next mogul who is targeted for this unfair tabloid treatment.
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