In reporting about Tim Gray‘s de facto replacing of Peter Bart as Variety editor, Anne Thompson alluded to the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” line — “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Except she re-phrased it as “Good-bye to the old boss — hello to the new boss.” I think she had the Who’s meaning in mind anyway. There’s a difference between Gray and Bart — the former seen as being less prickly and more in tune with 21st Century currents — but not a huge one.

Tim Gray, Peter Bart

To tens of thousands in the entertainment industry, Variety is a comfort blanket. It’s a community gathering place, a church, an old friend, a reassurance of normality and stability. Not just an entertainment-industry Bible and paper-of-record but a kind of guidance counselor, preacher, accountant, community agent and next-door neighbor saying “hi” over the fence.

Reliability, constancy and general alertness aside, what I love about Variety is the secular mentality of it. A kind of members-and-followers-only attitude that the schmoes in Cape May, Bangor and Fayetteville aren’t supposed to understand. There’s a kind of beauty in that.

It’s going to have to maintain that 45,000 copies-per-day print presence that the older GenX and Boomer crowd value so highly. But of course the necessity of this will fade down the road.

David Poland wrote last night that Gray “will keep the machine running and running with less personality issues than Bart, but he will surely be managing someone else’s idea of the future. Gray is a good man and a very good company man…but I don’t see him as the visionary of the paper’s future either.” Probably not, but “the future” has never been all it’s been cracked up to be. It’s never been that hard to figure what’s coming ’round the bend and to make your move before it gets here. And even for the slowpokes life has a way of making everyone fall into line sooner or later. So strategy matters, obviously, but a paper don’t have nothin’ if it ain’t got that old soul. That’s all I’m saying.

So Gray’s the top dog but Bart isn’t out the door. He’ll continue to blog and knock out his weekly column as Variety‘s vp and editorial director.