GQ removes article comparing media exec David Zaslav to ‘Succession’ patriarch Logan Roy

GQmagazine took the rare step on Monday of pulling down an article, erasing a commentary piece that was highly critical of Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav amid a dispute with the piece’s author.

The original version of the piece, from film critic Jason Bailey, was titled, “How Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav Became Public Enemy Number One in Hollywood,” and can still be read in archive form online.

The article paints a scathing picture of Mr Zaslav as “perhaps the most hated man in Hollywood” and compares him to the vicious media mogul Logan Roy from the HBO show Succession.

The executive has presided over a period of much change and controversy at the conglomerate in the aftermath of Discovery and WarnerMedia’s merger.

He has overseen moves like the merger of streaming services HBOMax and Discovery+, the shelving of films like Batgirl, the firing of CNN CEO Chris Licht, potential cuts to the beloved Turner Classic Movies channel, and the removal of popular titles like Westworld from streaming libraries, as the company looks to cut down on its hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, all against the background of a high-profile Hollywood writers’ strike.

Mr Bailey’s piece provoked Mr Zaslav’s team to reach out to GQ, with Warner Bros Discoveryarguing he didn’t seek comment from the media exec and made factual errors.

The magazine then made substantial edits to the piece, removing some of the sharpest criticisms, and Mr Bailey asked that his byline be removed. Soon GQ took down the piece entirely, according to the Washington Post.

A protester holds a sign during an address by Zaslav at a Boston University commencement ceremony in May

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“I wrote what I felt was the story I was hired to write,” Mr Bailey told the paper. “When I was asked to rewrite it after publication, I declined. The rewrite that was done was not to my satisfaction, so I asked to have my name removed and was told that the option there was to pull the article entirely, and I was fine with that.”

“I think a side-by-side comparison of the piece before and after GQ’s internal edits reveals exactly what WBD wanted changed, and that GQ was happy to do so,” he added, defending the factual integrity of his article.

The magazine, meanwhile, told the Post in a statement the piece was “was not properly edited before going live.”

“After a revision was published, the writer of the piece asked to have their byline removed, at which point GQ decided to unpublish the piece in question,” the statement read. “GQ regrets the editorial error that [led] to a story being published before it was ready.”

Outside observers criticised the magazine’s handling of the article.

Patrick Redford of Defector argued that Mr Bailey didn’t need to seek comment, since he was using already publicly available facts and news stories to support an opinion piece.

“The notion that Bailey has a journalistic duty to reach out to Zaslav for comment is patently false, it’s worth noting, as is GQ’s agreement with Zaslav that the story was inaccurate in any way,” Mr Redford wrote in a piece of his own. “Bailey did not publish a long, reported story on Zaslav, one that unearthed new information or hinged upon previously untapped sources; he wrote a long, pointed blog post summarising Zaslav’s many public foibles. The value of Bailey’s story is in the opinion that it expresses.”

Film critics aren’t the only ones criticising Mr Zaslav.

Last month layoffs of top personnel at TCM inspired worried calls from top Hollywood directors like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Paul Thomas Anderson, who have joined in efforts to revive the beloved classic movie channel.

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