Matthew Belloni, executive editor and blogger for The Hollywood Reporter, speaks to Lindsay Stein about the entertainment legal world and competing with showbiz outlets.
You went from being an entertainment lawyer to MD of The Hollywood Reporter to executive editor in 2010. Tell me about that transition.
I joined The Hollywood Reporter because the publication reached out to me. At that time, I was a practicing entertainment lawyer and there was a real interest in starting something that catered to the entertainment law community.
I started editing a section called Hollywood Reporter Esq., which was initially conceived as a separate paid supplement. That lasted for about two years.
At that time, we were owned by Nielsen and the people there said, "We love the product, but we want to focus on the core product – not these other growth areas."
So they shut down the supplement and brought me in as MD of The Hollywood Reporter. That is when the blog incarnation of Hollywood Reporter Esq. began appearing on the website.
The blog started in 2008, and from there I was a managing editor until the magazine was bought by Guggenheim. They decided to switch the format from a daily trade paper to a weekly magazine, and brought in Janice Min from US Weekly as editorial director [now co-president and chief creative officer of The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard] and the reinvention of the title began from there.
What are some changes you have seen in this sector while covering it throughout the years?
The great thing is that we helped invent a category of coverage. There really has not been much coverage of the legal world as it relates to the entertainment industry other than TMZ.
You look around the landscape today and most outlets now cover lawsuits and the legal comings and goings.
The level of coverage of the legal aspects of Hollywood is now through the roof. I would like to think we played a key role in expanding that and elevating the coverage beyond what you see on TMZ.
With other outlets now covering this beat, how do you compete?
We have a dedicated reporter, Eriq Gardner, who is a full-time legal expert and writer, who really owns this beat. Most of the time, if there is a dispute in Hollywood you will see it on our website first.
The thing that always frustrated me, first as a reader, and then as an editor, was that you see so much coverage when these lawsuits are filed, then they would go away and you would not hear about the case again.
Sometimes you would hear if it was settled or going to trial, but often you would not hear anything about it.
We try to really go inside a lot of these cases and get into the facts and arguments and do multiple updates so you can follow them.
Lawsuits are fascinating. Some of the more interesting truths about Hollywood are revealed in lawsuits, and it just takes effort and expertise to know where to look and, when you see something, to turn it into a good story.
We have accomplished that and we try to be authoritative on the subject.
What are some annoying things PR people do when they pitch you?
When people pitch me stuff that is elsewhere, or when they have obviously gone to another outlet first and either did not get the story they wanted or are just trying to get additional coverage.
If you are going to pitch something to me, then do that, but do not make me second on your list.
It is not just for legal cases. Sometimes publicists will bring casting stories, executive promotions, or interesting news items to us, and it will pique my interest. Then, a quick Google search will show it was posted on The New York Times’ website about three hours ago.
What are some publications you respect?
My world view is through the lens of Hollywood, so I really like the entertainment coverage in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
For news from the media world, I read Mediabistro’s newsletter. As for legal news, I like Law360.com and, for what they do, TMZ does a nice job. It is a very particular type of story that they do, but they are often first on a lot of these stories.
Who would be your dream interview?
Rupert Murdoch. He is definitely the most fascinating person in media today.