LA Press Club Responds to Nikki Finke NEJ Awards ‘Boycott’

On the same day that the LA Press Club announced the nominees for its fifth annual National Entertainment Journalism Awards taking place November 18 at the Biltmore Hotel, Nikki Finke explained why she and her team chose to boycott this year’s event. At the beginning of her post, Finke writes:

In my opinion, the LA Press Club seems more interested in collecting entry fees and selling gala tables to its entertainment awards contest than in rewarding high standards of journalism or conducting a competition with integrity. Tabloid media outlets which engage in ‘checkbook journalism’ are allowed to enter and in fact won NEJ categories last year.

Finke goes on to make a couple of valid points. Although the NEJ Awards have the word “National” in the title, this work-in-progress is still – perhaps inevitably – very much a SoCal-centric affair. Today’s list of nominees includes only a handful of non-LA outlets, most notably People magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek. Also, as Finke suggests, the NEJ Awards would benefit from a more transparent explanation of how the first place winners are chosen.

In response to a query from FishbowlLA, LA Press Club executive director Diana Ljungaeus and president Will Lewis have provided the following joint statement of response to Finke’s post:

Unlike, the Los Angeles Press Club is a non-profit organization (that barely breaks even!) not only dedicated to quality journalism but also here to support and bolster the morale of journalists.

Despite Nikki Finke’s attack on the integrity of the LA Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Awards, the 2012 NEJ’s attracted a record of close to 300 entries, from more than 45 news organizations across the nation. This is reflected in the affiliations of the finalists.

It is sad that Deadline chose not to compete. We suspect that it has more to do with the Club honoring The Hollywood Reporter’s Janice Min with a career achievement award. When the decision was made, a board member who works for Deadline joined the unanimous motion to approve the choice. Unfortunately, she was subsequently forced to resign from the Press Club, after having attended only two board meetings.

LAPC is not concerned with petty rivalries. All our judges are professional journalists, authors and filmmakers who view entries with an independent eye. Keeping them anonymous avoids undue pressure and prevents accusations of “playing politics.”

While Variety, now a Finke sister publication, has historically not paid for LAPC award entries on behalf of its staff, individual journalists there have periodically submitted themselves. This year, for whatever reason, the LAPC tells us there were no such entries from the Variety end for the 2012 NEJ’s.

Update – 10/29/12: Finke sent us this reply to the above LAPC statement: “The Los Angeles Press Club knows full well that I began raising my concerns about the integrity of its awards process right after last year’s competition – and that the officers failed to respond to and often even acknowledge these concerns.”

Update – 11/19/12: Following the handing out of the 5th Annuel NEJ Awards at the Biltmore Hotel on Sunday November 18, Finke has restated her case.

@hollywoodspin Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.