Robert J. Dowling, who carried The Hollywood Reporter to great heights during his 17-year run as the trade paper’s classy publisher and editor-in-chief, has died. He was 83.
Dowling died Friday at his home in Santa Monica after a short battle with cancer, a family spokesperson announced.
Dowling joined THR in September 1988, taking over from Tichi Wilkerson, widow of the newspaper’s founder, William R. Wilkerson, after she sold the company to BPI Communications for $26.7 million.
The publication saw huge growth under Dowling amid an explosion in media coverage of Hollywood, and he helped reshape THR into a fierce, underdog rival to the industry’s other five-days-a-week trade, Daily Variety.
THR’s Key Art Awards program (now known as the Clio Awards), its annual Women in Entertainment breakfast — and the accompanying Sherry Lansing Award — and its Next Generation initiative thrived under his leadership and remain an important part of today’s THR.
Other innovations under his stewardship included bringing THR onto the internet in 1995 and launching the digital THR East, which served readership on the East Coast via a PDF edition; a daily Oscar Screening Guide; a production database to track the progress of films and TV shows; a focus on international news; and THR, Esq., a legal blog first led by Matthew Belloni.
He also wrote impactful Page 1 editorials under the “Trade Winds” banner, a tradition that had begun with Billy Wilkerson, while embracing the technological changes that roiled Hollywood during his tenure.
“I am grateful I got a chance to talk to Mr. Dowling recently. We talked about his tenure at THR and made plans to get together and chat about his experiences,” said Nekesa Mumbi Moody, THR‘s editorial director. “I regret we were never able to meet, and I am so appreciative of how encouraging he was to me. He made it very clear how much he loved THR, and we are indebted to his wonderful contributions.”
In December 2005, with THR owned by Dutch media conglomerate VNU, the New York native resigned to become a consultant and president of his own Bob Dowling Group. He was succeeded by Tony Uphoff, who lasted less than a year in the job. THR in its daily form would never be the same.
“During planning for the next five years, they looked around the room, and when they got to me it wasn’t quite so clear,” he told the Los Angeles Times when he left. “Nobody was the catalyst; it just kind of got to that spot.”
(Excerpt) Read more in: The Hollywood Reporter