The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard Magazine repeatedly buried stories relating to Charlie Walk and sexual abuse allegations, according to accusations now surfacing.
It’s one thing to hold a story for lack of corroborating evidence. But were The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard actively muting stories relating to former Republic Records executive Charlie Walk?
That’s the very damning accusation from The Daily Beast, which is reporting that Billboard in particular systematically prevented stories about Charlie Walk to surface. At the center of the accusation is John Amato, president of Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group. Aside from its namesake, the magazine conglomerate also oversees Spin, Stereogum, and Vibe, all of which Amato oversees.
In an article published ahead of the weekend, The Daily Beast asserted that “Amato worked to derail at least three stories about Walk’s alleged misdeeds from being published at his own outlets,” while citing a “half-dozen high-level sources”. The article also pointed to a tight relationship between Amato and Walk, one that featured Hamptons hangouts, lots of joint appearances at music industry events, and even personal family connections.
That might explain why Amato nixed, delayed, or outright removed numerous stories accusing Walk of sexual impropriety. “Over the course of several weeks, sources said, Amato personally insisted that he review several stories about Walk. None of those articles — which were finished and featured extensive original reporting — ever ran,” the Daily Beast continued.
We’ve asked Billboard for a response. The magazine turned our request over to a PR firm named Jonesworks, so we’re not sure what meaningful response (if any) we’ll receive. Separately, attorneys for The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group told the Daily Beast that its reporting was not accurate, while pointing to numerous Walk pieces that actually ran.
Either way, it appears that there’s an internal battle happened inside the magazine group, with people sensing an enemy within.
That might explain the flurry of sources, which included pissed-off Billboard writers. “It’s not smart to tell reporters, many of whom are female, what is valuable to report and not to report in #metoo, especially when you’re not a journalist yourself, and you’re just pretending to be one to keep your friends happy,” one source ranted.
It’s unclear how long Billboard knew about problems involving Charlie Walk. In January of this year, a former Walk employee, Tristan Coopersmith, issued a bombshell accusation against her former boss on her personal blog. That led to a flurry of coverage, and opened the floodgates for a string of similar accusations involving other female ex-employees.
In that torrent, The Daily Beast says that Amato shelved, delayed, or outright buried a string of damning stories. Some were mere recaps of other reports, including a long-form, intensive piece on Walk published by Rolling Stone. That piece, which involved more than a month of investigative journalism, effectively ended Walk’s career.
Amato may have been over-cautious about the Walk situation given the presence of aggressive legal counsel.
Indeed, industry analyst Bob Lefsetz was threatened for a largely innocuous comment, though that bullying ended up causing severe public relations problems for Walk.
Here’s how the Daily Beast characterized Amato’s stance:
“According to two insider sources, the impression among staff was that Amato was uncomfortable with Billboard publishing potentially complicated #MeToo stories about the music business. In conversations with site leaders, Amato reminded editors that Billboard was a trade publication that covered the business of music. According to one source, the company president privately speculated to associates about where to draw the line with stories about harassment.”
Then again, publications like Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter were aggressively pummeling executives like former WMG executive vice president Jeff Fenster, Goldenvoice concert promoter Sean Carlons, and even Dustin Hoffman.
In that light, was Charlie Walk getting a free pass?