Rushfield: Nikki Finke RIP
The id of an industry and its insecurity remembered for better and, mostly, worse
This is not a fun one to write, even though I've written thousands of words on the topic in the past and Nikki occupied a fairly sizable estate rent-free in my brain for too many years.
When a life ends, in general, I think you should honor the passing and the grief of those close and try to be positive for a few hours. And it's not like she committed genocide. She never even got anyone fired, although she threatened to do so hourly — mostly to very low-ranking employees.
But in my tiny corner of my at-times dying profession, hers was a consequential life. I don't say she personally changed everything, but she messed some things up for certain. Her legacy has a lot to do with why I started this little newsletter. So some words on what she meant, unfortunately, are in order.
This is the story of a very troubled writer who used the megaphone of “journalism” to work out her insecurities and issues in a hellstorm of performative rage, all while hiding — ailing, agoraphobic, sick — behind an online persona. An OG troll. And this is the story of the industry that enabled that, elevated it and created a monster in its own image. I’d argue no other “real” industry would ever have given such a person oxygen.
If she was an abusive rageaholic, well that's how powerful people are. They've got a lot on their shoulders... we have to cut them some slack. If she lied like other people breathe, well, hey, what's a lie anyway? She was always a journalist trying to play mogul, and for the moguls who empowered her, they took the act as an homage. An unstable but useful vessel; as transactional as they are themselves.
There are those who knew her before she became “Nikki”, who attest she could be kind and considerate and a good friend back when. Nice to hear. Not a side of her I ever witnessed.
The newfound prominence of Deadline brought Nikki into some brand new circles with a much higher level of poohbahs burning up her phone line. And they all called with one great suggestion, “Why don't you write about how everyone hates (insert poohbah’s enemy of the month here).”