Hollywood Confidential: How L.A. Weekly’s Nikki Finke Gives the Industry What it Deserves

She’s equal parts scourge and high-wire act
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Finke is a kind of journalist rapidly going extinct in a wave of corporate buy-ups and human resources department memos. The obnoxious kind. Not to mention the fanatic, operatic, and unwieldy kind. With a stick. “There’s not a lot of news outlets that will pay the price for her kind of journalism,” says Sharon Waxman. “They just don’t have the stomach for it anymore.”

Finke thrives on the support of editors who buffer her excesses—which is why eyebrows raised around town when she was hired to edit the Downtown News in 2001. She lasted mere months.

Not that describing her as an old-school newspaper type is the only definition that fits. As a woman—one who started out with no training—emerging in the ’70s, an era when newsrooms were still male bastions, there’s something of the autodidact about Finke, somebody who has had to learn on the job and on her own. She started covering Hollywood without the trade publication background many entertainment reporters find essential. She is nothing if not self-created. When she first met her editor at The New York Observer, she kept her sunglasses on. The meeting took place in Finke’s apartment. “I don’t know what color Nikki’s eyes are,” he says. “I’ve never seen them.”

“Friends,” she says, “are constantly saying to me, ‘Don’t do it.’ They see these absolutely self-destructive tendencies that I have. They say, ‘Try to keep your job at the L.A. Weekly.’ But they don’t understand. I don’t have any control over any of this whatsoever.”

It would be insufferable coming from anyone else. Coming from Finke—well, it is insufferable, but it also makes a crude kind of sense. It’s how she is able to write over the line. “I am so saddened by the consolidation and conglomeration of the entertainment business,” says Finke. “That said, never did I imagine in a million years that this wasn’t just something that would haunt me but would try to destroy me.” Perhaps—probably—she doth protest too much. Yet Finke can make a hammy, self-serving play for sympathy—and deserve it. At the age of 49, she brings the most raucous voice to the Weekly. As a self-made insider, she has eased into the role of whistle-blower at a place where more journalists start than finish their careers. It looks like a good fit, for as long as it lasts.