Former Hollywood Reporter broadcaster Robert Dowling dies at 83

Few in Robert Dowling’s early resume screamed Hollywood’s power broker.

The New York native had worked as a trade publication editor and publisher for American Druggist, High-Tech Marketing, Menswear and Sports Marketing News. He had also developed a knack for portraying underperformers, which was the Hollywood Reporter’s description in 1988. Founded in 1930, The Hollywood Reporter was losing nearly $1 million a year, far behind the entertainment industry trade news leader, the Daily Variety. When Dowling was offered a job as president.

“He didn’t know anything about the industry or anyone. “But he jumped at the opportunity – he’s always been a big fan of entertainment,” his son Michael Dowling told The Times. “While he was working in broadcasting in New York in those days, he saw the entertainment industry evolve to become more of a business.”

His son said Dowling died Friday at his home in Santa Monica after a brief battle with cancer.

The venerable former broadcaster was 83 years old.

After Dowling moved her family from Westport, Conn. to Los Angeles for work in September 1988, she dived into her new role with a listening tour and quickly stepped up. He ran The Hollywood Reporter for nearly two decades, including 14 years as publisher and editor-in-chief, helping to make the five-day-a-week trade newspaper a profitable and formidable competitor to Variety and other publications covering entertainment.

She empowered the newspaper with special editions and events such as the annual Women in Entertainment breakfast, the Key Art Awards program (now known as the Clio Awards), a Next Generation initiative, and launching THR East, a PDF version for East Coast readers. . One of Dowling’s proudest achievements was building an online presence with the launch of in 1995, a few years before Variety made the digital leap.

The website continues to be a must-read site in the industry.

Dowling’s tenure encompassed a time when readers’ interest in entertainment news increased and studio publishers increasingly sought to control news and publicity about their stars, movies, and executives.

Dowling was sensitive to their concerns. He once killed off a suggested story about the “100 Worst Movies of All Time.” The move allegedly stemmed from complaints by some former employees from studios that provided advertising revenue. Dowling admitted he killed the story in an interview with The Times, but said it was for philosophical reasons, not economic reasons.

In a snap in 2001, three prominent journalists resigned after Dowling pulled a reporter from an investigation report of the newspaper’s alleged party columnist, who allegedly received favors from the movie studios.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dowling thought the matter would be “best handled by human resources.” The Times reported that in 2001 THR eventually published a short story, citing a Screen Actors Guild investigation into the ethics of the columnist. The Hollywood Reporter also noted instances of Dowling backing his reporters despite pressure from agencies and studios to kill certain stories.

“He once told me that news in the entertainment industry, in any industry, is the ante at the game,” Michael Dowling said. “He concluded that what attracts readers, staff and advertisers is respect. So everything he did was to build respect for the newspaper.”

Dowling left following an ownership change that introduced a new corporate culture, following the acquisition of THR by Dutch media giant VNU, which at the time owned Nielsen Media Research and Billboard magazine. VNU wanted its US-based executives to be located in New York, but Dowling realized that wouldn’t work.

Dowling told The Times in 2005 that the breakup was bittersweet.

“I didn’t hear me get a standing ovation as I walked out the door,” he said. “But I think they were disappointed.”

His successor took less than a year in this business.

Born on September 16, 1939, in Long Island, New York, his early years were turbulent.

Dowling’s mother left him at birth and he spent his early years in a series of foster families before being adopted. He would later say that this experience helped him develop the capacity to instinctively recognize motives and evaluate situations.

“This sense of abandonment really turned her on,” her son said. “He told me that when he went to these foster families, he needed to quickly understand the environment around him. He didn’t want to do anything that would upset the balance or draw attention to himself. [out of concern] can be abandoned again.”

Dowling met and married the love of his life, Juanita Rich, in 1965. Together they raised three sons.

Beyond his family, Dowling loved to make news of the entertainment industry.

“He was fascinated by music and cared about the full production of a movie – not just its stars or outstanding talent,” said Michael Dowling. “He loved the crafts, he loved the arts. He was very grateful for the skills and talents people brought to his work.”

Dowling is survived by his wife of 56 years, Juanita, their children and wives: Rob (Diane) Dowling, Michael (Gia) Dowling and Matthew (Anna) Dowling; seven grandchildren PJ, Larissa, Lena, Devan, Ella, Miles and Radley; and his dog KC

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