Reporter Apologizes: Universal Un-Bans

A Hollywood trade reporter who’d been banned by Universal Studios three weeks ago for what it considered to be unethical journalism — putting off-the-record remarks by the boss on the record — has apologized in a handwritten letter sent to the head of the studio, both sides confirmed to me this week. The missive has prompted the studio to lift its ban on the journalist, thus bringing to a quick end one of the most talked-about incidents in reporter-studio relationships in recent memory.

See previous: Universal Bans Trade Reporter

Anne Thompson of the Hollywood Reporter confirmed to me today that she recently wrote a handwritten letter of apology to Ron Meyer, president and COO of Universal Studios, and both she and Universal confirm that the ban on her has been lifted because of it. Meyer had previously instructed his head of corporate communications to inform the publicity staff that Thompson was persona non grata to every executive there. Not only was no one supposed to talk to her, but she was 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 would be called if she were 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 a 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.

Previously, when I called to get her side of the story, Thompson, who writes HR‘s Risky Business column, at first declined comment, and then told me: “His remarks were on the record.” Yet she confirmed today that she wrote a letter of apology to Meyer for her actions. Universal sources also characterized her handwritten letter as deeply apologetic.

Meanwhile, I’m told the matter was, and is, a matter of intense concern to HR‘s newly installed publisher Tony Uphoff — he took over January 1st — and that he is still actively seeking (through numerous phone calls to executives there) to normalize relations between the traditionally studio-friendly trade paper and Universal. The matter drew much attention in Hollywood where no studio has banned a journalist, much less a trade journalist, in recent memory, and where Meyer is seen as a mogul nice guy, and Thompson a seasoned professional, with clear-cut rules of engagement.

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