Nikki Finke, the veteran entertainment journalist who founded Deadline in 2006 and helped make it a top Hollywood business, died Sunday morning in Boca Raton, Florida, after a prolonged illness. She was 68 years old.
The famous loner Finke founded her site as Deadline Hollywood Daily, the 24/7 internet version of her long-running print column “Deadline Hollywood” for LA weekly. He published first-hand accounts of how he saw the entertainment business and was undeterred by denigrating its biggest players. Her often scathing and scathing posts exposed wrongdoing and wrongdoing as she saw fit, making her a hero to many low-level assistants and employees, while also irritating many in senior executives who weren’t around. accustomed to nothing less than praise.
However, they almost always took his calls.
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Finke’s take no prisoners style angered many of the top players in show business and delighted others. He often got big scoops, and when the communications teams or publicists confirmed them, Finke would update his story using his signature “TOLDJA!”
Among Finke’s most famous, if not infamous, assignments was his “live participation” in Hollywood award shows, including the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes. He applied warning labels to many of those live blogs, including: “Come for the cynicism…stay for the subversion” and “Not for the easily offended or ridiculously naive”. In fact, no executive, star, producer or subject was safe at the time, or in any other Deadline publication.
“At her best, Nikki Finke embodied the spirit of journalism and was never afraid to tell the hard truths with an incisive style and an enigmatic spark. She was brash and candid,” said Jay Penkse, founder, chairman and CEO of Penske Media Corporation, which acquired Finke’s blog in 2009. “It was never easy with Nikki, but she will always remain one of the most memorable people in my life. . .”
A native of Long Island, New York, Finke’s journalistic career before the deadline included posts around the world with some of the most powerful and influential media outlets: as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press in Moscow and London, a news week correspondent in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, and a Los Angeles Times staff writer covering entertainment and features. She was a West Coast editor and Hollywood columnist first for the new york observer and then by new york magazine. He also hosted an entertainment industry radio show on Southern California Public Radio.
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He joined LA weekly as a columnist for “Deadline Hollywood” in 2002, writing about the business, politics, and culture of the media and entertainment industry. Finke launched Deadline Hollywood Daily in March 2006 as a faster way to report breaking entertainment news than her weekly column, and bought the domain name for $14.
Dow Jones’s MarketWatch called Finke a “must read” in Hollywood. the Angels magazine said it was “essential reading for those who follow the industry, and new york observer dubbed Finke “Media Mensch of the Year”.
Finke, and by extension Deadline, cemented themselves in the Hollywood media consciousness by their mainstream coverage and myriad scoops on the 2007-08 writers’ strike.
After Deadline Hollywood was purchased in 2009 by Penske’s PMC (then known as Mail.com Media Corporation), Finke became its editor-in-chief and general manager. Deadline would become the authoritative source for breaking news and insider analysis/commentary in the industry. PMC went on to control the three major Hollywood trade publications: Deadline, Variety, and THR.
In 2010, Finke was ranked 79th in Forbes’ list of the most powerful women in the world.
That same year, HBO ordered tick, a pilot starring Diane Keaton as a lonely Finke-esque Hollywood blogger, which was conceived, written, and developed without Finke’s knowledge or involvement. Also starring Elliot Page and Jason Patric, it was co-created by Bill Condon, who co-wrote the script and directed the pilot. He was also an executive producer alongside Alan Paol, Alexa Junge and John Hoffman. The pilot had a rocky production and post-production that was marred by creative differences, with HBO finally letting it slide in early 2011.
Finke sometimes clashed with PMC founder and chairman Penske and left Deadline in 2013.
In 2015, Finke launched HollywoodDementia.com, a site dedicated to fictional stories about Hollywood (read an excerpt here). She entered into a first-look production deal with HBO for the site’s material.
From 2011-21, he served as a judge for the Mirror Awards competition, which celebrates excellence in media industry reporting. The honors were bestowed by Syracuse University’s SI Newhouse School of Public Communication.
An alumnus of Wellesley College, Finke had long been a benefactor of the school and spoke to his students over the years.
He is survived by a sister, Terry Finke Dreyfus; brother-in-law James Dreyfus; and nieces Sarah Greenhill and Diana Leighton.
Memorial services will be private.