Longtime 'Rolling Stone' Film Critic Peter Travers Fighting for His Job
An offer of diminished status led to an office shouting match with publisher Jann S. Wenner and an ongoing negotiation. Meanwhile, 'Men's Journal' editor Jason Fine is said to be a frontrunner to replace outgoing managing editor Will Dana.
A tumultuous restructuring at Rolling Stone could lead to the exit or diminished status of a name-brand writer.
Veteran film critic Peter Travers, whose lively and blurb-friendly reviews have been a favorite of Hollywood studios since he joined the magazine in 1989, last week was offered a new role as a contract writer, a well-placed source tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Travers is said to have objected to the demotion, which led to a heated argument in the Rolling Stone office between Travers and co-founder and publisher Jann S. Wenner and talk of lawyers. "There was yelling and screaming," says the source. Negotiations now are ongoing, but the pay offered for Travers' new contractual role would be deducted from his severance package.
"He was told that, either way, he has to be out of his office next week," adds the source.
Travers' potential move from a staffer to a contributor would follow a round of layoffs in the past month, with more than a dozen editorial and business-side employees let go in June, including senior talent at sister publications Us Weekly and Men's Journal. Senior music editor David Fricke was said to be moved to a contract-writer role at that time.
Travers did not yet respond to a request for comment. A Wenner Media representative offered this statement to THR regarding Travers: "I can confirm he is still with Rolling Stone. He is our movie critic now and will continue to be, and he is not leaving the magazine for as far into the future as we can speak."
Travers is one of America's most recognizable critics, having written for the iconic music, politics and pop culture magazine for over two decades.
His brash reviews routinely are cited by Hollywood studios in promotional campaigns, and his opinions are broadcast via ABC's Popcorn With Peter Travers. Travers' influence is seen widely in the industry, where a movie quote from the critic still is sought after by industry executives and publicity chiefs.
Rolling Stone has made several moves toward restructuring recently. Will Dana, managing editor, officially resigned from his role on Wednesday. Dana, who spent nearly 20 years at the magazine, was elevated to managing editor in 2005 and continued the tradition of hard-hitting longform feature reporting.
Men's Journal editor Jason Fine is said to be a frontrunner to replace Dana, a source tells THR.
The magazine's restructuring arrives as it's mired in criticism and a legal battle over a Nov. 2014 University of Virginia campus-rape story. The feature by Sabrina Rubin Erdely resulted in a full retraction and a Columbia Journalism Review dissection, along with a lawsuit filed by three graduates of University of Virginia this week. That followed an early May lawsuit by UVA Dean Nicole Eramo, who sued for defamation.
Dana's time as editor also saw a criticized July 2013 cover image of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, which led some retailers not to carry the issue. (The story itself, by Janet Reitman, was a finalist for a National Magazine Award — a top honor in the industry.)
In the Thursday statement on Dana's exit, Wenner said: “Will is one of the finest editors I have ever worked with.”