For the sin of shutting down around 8 pm last night and ignoring all online happenings, I missed the news — broken by Nikki Finke — about Fox 411’s Roger Friedman getting fired for posting that review of the pirated Wolverine work print. I can’t say I was surprised, given Friedman’s provocation and the stakes involved.
(l. to r.) former Fox News columnist Roger Friedman, Wolverine star Hugh Jackman, Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Tom Rothman, Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
“I hear the move was done with the full support of News Corp,” Finke posted at 5:57 pm Pacific last night. A Fox News source told Finke that “[Friedman] promoted piracy…he basically suggested that viewing a stolen film is okay, which is absolutely intolerable…so we fired him. Fox News acted promptly on all fronts.”
Actually they took a couple of days. Friedman downloaded and viewed the film on Wednesday evening. His review (which has now entirely disappeared) was posted on Thursday morning. Fox issued its condemning press release on Friday. The axe, I gather, fell more or less at the same time. And Finke was apparently told about the dismissal sometime on Saturday afternoon.
I wrote Friedman on Friday morning, asking him what’s what, looking for any kind of update or elaboration — nothing.
Although I suspect he thought he was doing 20th Century Fox a roundabout solid by posting a thumbs-up response to Wolverine (which, let’s face facts, has not been the recipient of ecstatic buzz so far), Friedman’s Thursday column did appear to blithely approve of an illegal downloading of the 20th Century Fox release, which will open on 5.1.09. Friedman especially conveyed this in the cavalier tone of his prose.
Friedman put his neck on the block in doing what he did. He blundered. Piracy is too threatening an issue for 20th Century Fox and Hollywood in general for Newscorp. not to react as it did.
I for one feel badly for Friedman. He screwed up in this instance, but he’s a ballsy, sharp-eyed reporter-columnist who knows what he’s doing, and who’s delivered some very solid and tough reporting.
In his now-disappeared Thursday column, Friedman wrote that he decided to review the downloaded print because “the cat is out of the bag and the genie is out of the bottle” and “there’s no turning back.”
A guy identified as “Kenny” in Finke’s talkback section wrote that “Friedman wasn’t advocating a crime — he was just telling it like it is. But rather than find a way to monetize reality, Fox pretends most people aren’t already aware movies are easy to find on-line. As long as Fox would rather grandstand then try to monetize what’s already happening, they’ll lose money to people stealing their movies.”
When you go to the URL where Friedman’s Thursday column appeared, you see a message that says “this is Google’s cache of http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,512139,00.html. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Apr 4, 2009 13:20:23 GMT. The current page could have changed in the meantime. These search terms are highlighted: roger friedman. These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: wolverine.”