AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Golden Globes nominations come out on Monday, but the group of international journalists that hand out the awards, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is still reeling from the fallout from investigations by the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. The reporting raised questions about the group’s membership and how they select award winners. NPR’s Mandalit del Barco reports the association has made some changes, but Hollywood remains wary.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Since 1944, the Golden Globes have been the casual, boozy celebration that kicked off Hollywood’s awards season.
MARY MURPHY: It was the most fun event. We’d had the best hosts. It was irreverent. Everybody was there from films and television. They made fun of each other. It was glamorous.
DEL BARCO: For years, Mary Murphy covered Hollywood as a journalist. She’s now an associate professor at USC’s journalism school and says there’s always been criticism of the HFPA.
MURPHY: There was a deal between the industry and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – free trips, free movies, interviews, everything – and the deal broke down.
DEL BARCO: Last year, a Norwegian journalist sued the HFPA, saying she and other legitimate journalists were repeatedly barred from joining. Then, in February, days before the 2021 Golden Globes ceremony, the LA Times published investigations revealing the HFPA to have a culture of, quote, “self-dealing and ethical lapses” and major gaps in racial diversity. During the televised ceremony, co-host Tina Fey called them out.
(SOUNDBITE OF TELECAST OF 78TH GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS)
TINA FEY: There are no Black members of the Hollywood Foreign Press. I realize, HFPA, maybe you guys didn’t get the memo because your workplace is the backbooth of a French McDonald’s, but you got to change that.
DEL BARCO: NBC pulled the plug on airing the 2022 Golden Globes. Major studios said they’d no longer deal with the HFPA. Filmmakers Ava DuVernay and Shonda Rhimes and A-list celebrities Scarlett Johansson and Tom Cruise spoke out, and more than 100 publicity agencies signed a joint letter demanding the HFPA reform. In the months since, the scandal-ridden trade association has rewritten its bylaws and added new outside advisers and board members.
HELEN HOEHNE: We were the first ones to say we need some fixing and that fixing has been done and continues.
DEL BARCO: German journalist Helen Hoehne was elected HFPA president in September after serving as its vice president. She says all the members were independently reviewed and re-accredited.
HOEHNE: Every member had to sign a new code of conduct. Let’s say we find you – I don’t know – doing something really inappropriate, there are very harsh consequences. You may be expelled from the association. So, I mean, people will think twice now.
DEL BARCO: The HFPA pledged to increase its membership by 50%. So far, it added 21 new members, six of them Black.
NEIL PHILLIPS: I’ve been very impressed by how the organization has responded, frankly, to well-deserved criticism.
DEL BARCO: Neil Phillips is the HFPA’s brand-new chief diversity officer. Before him, a diversity strategist quit when the HFPA’s former eight-term president called Black Lives Matter a, quote, “racist hate movement.” Since then, the HFPA has partnered with the NAACP. Phillips says changes have been significant.
PHILLIPS: Not just to get out of a crisis or to weather a storm, but to become an organization that champions and practices really healthy and committed diversity and equity interests over the long term.
DEL BARCO: Three of the new members told NPR they feel welcome by the HFPA, but former members remain skeptical. In June, Chinese journalist Wenting Xu and a Dutch member resigned from the organization, citing a, quote, “toxic culture of corruption, verbal abuse and fear of retribution.”
WENTING XU: They didn’t think it was their fault. To them, it was Hollywood forcing them to change.
DEL BARCO: Xu says she’s waiting for radical reform.
XU: This organization has to basically end and restart from the ground.
DEL BARCO: President Hoehne insists the HFPA has addressed everything it promised. But USC’s Murphy says the organization is now tainted.
MURPHY: There are so many relationships in Hollywood they have to repair, not just with NBC. It’s with every studio, every publicist, stars.
DEL BARCO: Hollywood doesn’t seem ready to forgive the HFPA just yet, if ever. The next big question is if anyone will show up to any Golden Globes ceremony. It’s set for January 9, the same night the Critics Choice Awards will be broadcast.
Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.