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This story first appeared in the Nov. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Failure is a blood sport Hollywood, consumed publicly and voraciously. Movies bomb, shows are canceled, executives are fired. The schadenfreude runs as thick as the rush hour traffic on the 405. And in 2010, along with the Nic Cage-starring The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Fox’s Lone Star, The Hollywood Reporter was among the town’s spectacular stories of failure.
I moved here in July of that year to try to restart this place, newly acquired along with sister publications by deep-pocketed investors bullish on their potential. Me? I was tired and somewhat bored of living in NYC, where I’d moved when I was 17, as was my husband. For years, I’d had a nagging persistent fear of one day, as an elderly woman, regretting having never left Manhattan. I needed a little adventure.
But wanderlust wasn’t enough of a reason to move to Los Angeles. Earlier, I’d led another media resurrection — Us Weekly, which went from near insolvency to, at its peak, one of the biggest brands in publishing. I truly believed that THR, one of countless media titles on the gurney, wasn’t terminally ill. Instead, it was committing suicide. And someone was willing to hand me a defibrillator.
Sitting in my Soho loft, I saw clearly in my head what a reinvented THR could look like, read like and who would like it (“executives and their spouses,” I said simply to one of the investors). One thought persisted: Hollywood denizens had no idea just how big their stories were. Entertainment had gone global and was America’s largest export. But the media covering it felt small, petty, insignificant. I considered a barometer of success for a future THR story to be if people in New York cared about it. Not because New York was more important, but because that would mean we’d succeeded in making Hollywood accessible and interesting to the widest audience possible.
Like THR, the Actress Roundtable photo has come a long way since 2010.
Fast forward to today. Time has flown. The ideas I had in my head have been realized far beyond what I imagined. Honestly, it’s all been a blur because of the staggering intensity and pace of work (someone I know once said that working on a weekly publication is like playing professional sports with no offseason … and that was pre-Internet). Smart colleagues with too many good ideas to execute, the dynamism of news and the will to be boundlessly creative means not just that I take forever to answer non-urgent emails (today I have 18,600 in my inbox) but also that every day is a new sprint to win.
One of the earliest changes had nothing to do with fancy photos or paper. It was to create a culture of winning. That meant deprogramming the “old” staff’s belief that stories had to be a certain way, that there were sacrosanct “rules.” I — the Us Weekly, non-Hollywood interloper — was going to mess all that up. There were plenty of snarky stories and whispers about the changes, both here in THR‘s offices and in town. I get that. It will go down as one of my life’s best thrills to have proved the naysayers wrong. And to have some of those “old” staffers now among the biggest stars working here. “That’s not how we do things” is not something people at THR say anymore. The push to push ourselves keeps this place alive, as evidenced not just in your enjoyment (we hope) in reading and watching what we produce, but in a web audience of 15 million a month, a TV series, podcasts, events, an Emmy won by staff members, a National Magazine Award for General Excellence and dozens of L.A. Press Club Awards, including one this year for best website.
So, thank you for coming on this whirlwind adventure. Even if you once were waiting — even rooting! — for us to fail, we forgive you. It’s in the water here. And to my colleagues, the finest in publishing, I could never express enough gratitude for your huge leap of faith, without which nothing, least of all a fifth anniversary no one saw coming, would be possible.
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