Journos’ taking whack at flacks

CALL IT THE MOTHER of all public relations snits.

A contingent of newspaper editors around the country, led by New York Daily News managing editor for features Jane Freiman and Portland Oregonian features editor Karen Brooks, is up in arms about the PR honchos who rule their lives.

For two years, Freiman, Brooks and execs in a group called the American Assn. of Sunday and Feature Editors have been arduously creating a report on industry standards over how flacks control the news and why they shouldn’t be allowed to.

In this day and age of mass media, it’s a headache to get access to stars. And journos are fed up with being manipulated, played against each other and trampled upon in the name of star security.

Freiman is most perturbed by public relationites who take it upon themselves to deny major media coverage at public events.

She is so angered by it that she did the unthinkable, actually calling around to the New York Post and the New York Times in the name of solidarity.

“You have publicists telling you whether or not you can buy a photo of somebody,” Freiman cries. “This isn’t a free press as you know it.”

Freiman points to this Monday’s Ricky Martin concert in New York as a prime example. Originally, his PR staff wouldn’t let the New York tabs into the concert. They’d have to get their photos from a designated photographer.

Freiman took it personally and hammered MTV into allowing newspapers to send their own — but they would only allow permit pictures for the first two songs.

The next day, the Post ran a pic, the News ran a pic. The Times didn’t care.

“I think we want free press access to all kinds of entertainment events,” Freiman says. “What if there’s some extraordinary event there. That’s the reason you always want to have your own press everywhere.”

Brooks, who chairs the AASFE, wrote the guidelines. She maintains that if editors are forced by flacks to trade types of coverage simply to guarantee access to the stars, then “the credibility and integrity of both the newsgathering and critical functions that newspapers maintain is at risk.”

The editors may have a tough time of it, however. The first guideline in its manifesto is: “The AASFE encourages its members to adopt policies against accepting free trips, meals or nonreview products from organizations seeking coverage.”

While this sounds high and mighty, it’s many the studio premiere where I personally have watched truckloads of journos — including those of the Times, Post and Daily News — filling their faces and taking home their gift bags at the end of the night.

PARAMOUNT CLASSICS CO-PREXYS David Dinerstein and Ruth Vitale are riding high on the rip-roaring response to their small Sundance acquisition “You Can Count on Me.” The studio indie wants to launch a full-scale Oscar campaign for picture, director, actor and, perhaps most of all, actress for Laura Linney.

Linney plays an upstate New York single mother who struggles with her son, her brother and her boss — not necessarily in that order.

The pic, produced by Hart/Sharp Entertainment (who also did “Boys Don’t Cry”), has drawn raves from critics nationwide, including the New York Times, which called it a “melancholy little gem of a movie.”

Most amusing, however, was the reaction from Miramax co-chair Harvey Weinstein, who overlooked its Sundance preem in January.

Weinstein never really considered the pic until Times critic Stephen Holden gave it such a kiss last week.

Harvey immediately got on the phone to one of Hart/Sharp’s junior execs (who had once worked for him) and demanded to know all the details of the sale.

After hearing the depressing truth, Weinstein, according to sources, could only blurt: “This has Oscarville written all over it.”

To which Vitale and Dinerstein could only chuckle.

IS SYLVESTER STALLONE falling out of favor after the abysmal failure known as “Get Carter”?

The buffed-up star is starring in Renny Harlin’s upcoming “Driven” for Eli Samaha’s Franchise Pictures and Warner Bros.

But you wouldn’t know it from the ads.

In the pic’s action trailer, we see lots of cars zipping around racetracks and we see explosions and we see fascinating people surrounding these racetracks. But we only once for a brief moment see Stallone.

And we never see or hear his name.

Will Warner Bros. market this movie without Stallone’s name attached?

Is this a response to the tepid box office for “Get Carter”?

Or is this some highfalutin marketing scheme to sell the action, not the stars?

If you have information or just gripes, please contact Dan Cox at his email address: dcox@cahners.com.

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