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Shoot the messenger: Jack Valenti

In honor of our 100th birthday, Variety invited Jack Valenti (president-CEO, Motion Picture Assn. of America, 1966-2004; political consultant) to talk back about his coverage in the ‘bible of showbiz.’

What do you make of your coverage over the years?

“My coverage in Variety can be summed up in several words: I survived it. But I have been treated fairly. Rarely do I find something in Variety that is inaccurate. Most of the time, they’re quoting something I said 25 years ago … and by God they’ve proved it on me. I did say it.”

Does it bother you when we use old quotes?

“The only thing that bothers me is they’ll take a quote … say, I’ve said three sentences or four sentences in a paragraph, and they’ll take one sentence out of it — of course you lose all the context. … I find myself letting it go by knowing that, 24 to 48 hours later, there’s another edition coming out and people will have forgotten what they read two days ago.”

Has any story hurt a deal for you, propelled a deal or affected you personally?

“I think the only time that I have really been down in all my almost 39-year career is in 2003, the great screener debate, when there was an ad in Variety signed by about 100 creative people blasting me for cutting off the flow of screeners. And even Variety and (editor in chief) Peter Bart, who’s a dear, wonderful friend, had editorials in there. It was one of the down parts of my life, but the whole community was up in arms, not just Variety.

“I learned working for Lyndon Johnson, and after that my first 10 years in the movie industry, you can’t ever let what you think are unfriendly stories disturb your equanimity, because there’ll be some good ones later on. And I find this is the way of life.”

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