Does Writers-Producers PR War Matter?

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In the tug of war over hearts and minds, what difference does it make how the public views the screenwriters or even the studios? Will the masses really consume more or less entertainment based on which side they favor?

JOHN RIDLEY: So the Hollywood writers are winning the public-relations war against the major media companies.


Commentary from our resident Hollywood insider, John Ridley.

RIDLEY: As an actual Hollywood writer, upon hearing this vital and timely news of our psy-ops victory, I couldn't help but ask the question, so what? I mean, first of all, how hard is it to win a PR war against giant, soulless corporations? I think even Michael Vick could do that.

And honestly, in this tug of war over hearts and minds, what difference does it make how the public views the writers or even the studios? Is the gen pop really going to consume more or less entertainment based on which side they favor?

Not according to that Pepperdine survey that declared the writers media darlings. The survey also found that 75 percent of the public isn't particularly concerned about the strike reducing their entertainment choices. And a Rasmussen poll found that nearly 60 percent of the population felt the writers' strike had no impact on their lives whatsoever.

So while the populace might favor one side over the other, basically, they don't really care. And why should they? What's happening in Hollywood isn't a labor action by coal miners fighting for safer working conditions or migrant farmers trying to earn a living wage.

The writers' strike basically shapes up as a couple of third cousins at Thanksgiving dinner arguing over who gets a slightly larger piece of the billion-dollar pumpkin pie: the writers who create movies and shows, or the corporations who actually take all the financial risk which allows us Hollywood writers to write in Hollywood in the first place?

And are we really winning the PR war? The writers I have talked to are concerned about the way the picket lines in those videos have been portrayed in a wider media, with a snarky undertone that has cast the writers as elitists in "arty glasses and fancy scarves," and engaged in the "funnest strike ever." And that's a quote, too, because I ain't having any fun.

The feedback I'm starting to get is that the high-spirited picketing isn't for the public, but for the writers ourselves. It's write or crunch time, baby. Now may be make-it-or-break-it time for union solidarity. On Monday, Hollywood was flying high after a token on the Internet rumor that a deal to end the strike was imminent. But the rumor turned out to be just that. And should no deal be reached in the next week, the writers are facing a long, cold winter of inactivity. There's already some fracturing among the once-solid mass.

Some of the Hollywood showrunners are back to work on their own shows from Dick Cheney-like stealth locations. And Carson Daly is the first late-night host to go back on the air — oh joy. And there's reportedly at least one high-profile writer who's crossed the picket line to do rewrites on films and scripts. And no, it's not me.

With no end in sight and personal debt mounting by the day, in a few weeks, those funny YouTube videos, they might be the only thing the writers have to show for all their high-minded collectivism.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: A little bit of writing from Hollywood writer John Ridley.

You can read the blog that he also writes; it's called Visible Man. And you can weigh in with a comment of your own at

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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