The celebrated Hollywood journalist Nikki Finke passed away last Sunday at the age of 68. She was the founder of the film industry column Deadline Hollywood, which would later evolve into the popular industry website and publication Deadline.
Finke began her career as an assistant to Ed Koch, a New York representative to the U.S. House of Representatives who would later become mayor of New York City. She joined the AP in 1975 and eventually worked for major city newspapers and national publications including The Dallas Morning News, Newsweek, and The Los Angeles Times.
In 2002, she began a regular column for LA Weekly called Deadline Hollywood, through which she gained a large and passionate following for her challenging and sometimes confrontational coverage of studio execs and industry leaders. Fellow journalist David Carr from the New York Times labeled Finke the “queen of ritual sacrifice.” “If there’s an open wound, I’m going to pour salt in it,” she told Jon Friedman of MarketWatch for a 2006 article on Finke titled “In-Your-Face Finke Keeps Hollywood Honest.”
Finke understood that she was “weird” among industry journalists in that she was more interested in what happens in the boardroom rather than with its celebrities. Her website Deadline Hollywood Daily was launched in 2006, and acquired by entertainment news conglomerate Penske Media in 2009. Repeated clashes with Jay Penske led eventually to her ouster, with a legal settlement barring her from working as a journalist in competition.
Finke will be remembered as a determined innovator covering Hollywood, using an outsider’s perspective to make “the comfortable uncomfortable.”