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Former New York Times Hollywood reporter launches entertainment Web site

As cutbacks have decimated the reporting ranks of the Los Angeles Times, and other major publications that cover the business of Hollywood, the resulting dearth of insight into the entertainment industry has left readers with few choices beyond the superficial reports filed by unwashed masses of self-appointed paparazzi.

Thank God for Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily, which throughout the turmoil has continued to prove on a regular basis that there's much more to this business than a squadron of 20-something college dropouts with digital cameras is capable of capturing.

Of course, Nikki Finke can't do it all alone.

Yet, as Finke reported this past weekend, more cuts in the coverage of Hollywood are coming. More layoffs are expected this week at Variety.

"I'm told there'll be layoffs in both the business and editorial sides," writes Finke. "I can't confirm the number, but one tipster tells me as many as 30, which sounds enormous."

Tragic as all that seems, particularly at a time when troubles in the overall US economy and growing discord in the entertainment industry suggest it could benefit from more independent scrutiny, new ventures continue to attempt to fill the void.

Another new one launched Monday.

But, unlike past efforts, this new publication is being propelled by more than just money. This time the effort is powered by a considerable talent pool, a collection of some of the more accomplished journalists in Hollywood.

Sharon Waxman, the former Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times who left a year ago to pursue this venture, is the founder and editor. Named "The Wrap," it's a Web site that's had Hollywood watchers buzzing since last summer.

Says Waxman in her first column published Sunday night: "A year ago I left The New York Times with a sinking feeling about what was happening to professional journalism [...] the entertainment and media industries are at a fateful crossroads [...] Entertainment matters [...] It matters because popular culture is a multi-billion dollar industry, American's number one export, and a source of connection, employment, passion and aspiration for millions of people across the globe."

Launched with the help of venture capital from Maveron, which was co-founded by Starbucks Coffee Company CEO Howard Schultz, The Wrap's contributers include former reporters for the Los Angeles Times, Variety, USA Today and National Public Radio. Even the former editor of Defamer, Mark Lisanti, is listed among those on board for the startup.

Monday's top story is, quite appropriately, a piece by Waxman about the convergence of old Hollywood and the Internet.

-- TJ Sullivan

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