The entertainment industry is always abuzz with some type of story on Hollywood’s hottest celebrities. There’s not a news magazine, online publication, or community based site that doesn’t have a rumor attached to a big name in the media on any given day. In fact, most days you can search for celebrity news and be hit with 20+ articles on things ranging from what a celebrity had for lunch to who they’re romantically involved with and everything in between. The general public has become obsessed with the so called glamorous lives of celebrities and for that, and many other reasons, sites like TMZ not only exist, but are thriving.
Recently The New Yorker released an expose on TMZ and it was interesting for not only people interested in entertainment industry studies and journalism, but for people who tune in and read these stories every day. It was eye opening, to say the least, and it paved the way for the public to know a bit how things work behind the scenes. It proved how often celebrities are set up not only to shine, but also to fail, and at the hands of their own teams and anyone needing to make a buck.
“Everybody rats everybody else out, that’s the beauty of TMZ.”
So how does TMZ break stories, even the ones people want hidden, and somehow always seem to do it first? The truth of the matter is – they aren’t afraid to pay for them.
Harvey Levin, who calls himself an aggressive reporter, doesn’t shy away from taking risks if it means he gets the big stories but there are two things he won’t take part in and those are ‘policing bedroom affairs’ and ‘targeting minors’. Through the years he’s spent building his craft he’s also built rapport and a ‘safe’ place for people to report tips and remain anonymous. He also states that he uses his law degree every five minutes – having a background in law has seemed to help Harvey’s career.
Harvey’s rise to fame started before TMZ, but his current claim to fame rests there – and the breaking moment for the site came in two parts. One was Mel Gibson being pulled and his anti-Semitic rant in July of 2006 and the second was a recording of a racist comment made by Michael Richards (of Seinfield) at a comedy club a few months later. At first the sheriff’s office denied the story but later the same day Levin got his hands on a police report that went into heavy detail about Gibson’s statements against Jews including “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world”.
Once Harvey was put on the map, his journey keep twisting, turning, and evolving – now, it’s a testament to the entertainment industry. TMZ is responsible for breaking celebrity news stories and doing so with accuracy and speed – there aren’t many things they won’t do, or pay, to be the first to release gossip. While it’s said that The Society of Professional Journalists stand against paying people for tips and information Harvey says there’s nothing wrong with it, “The video is still the video. So who cares whether you pay money for it?”
Not everyone agrees with the method to the madness so to speak – some celebrities downright hate it. Alec Baldwin, Chris Brown, and Donald Sterling have all blamed Harvey for shortcomings in their careers, releasing personal information, and Alec Baldwin went as far as to say – after Levin called his 11 year old daughter a “rude thoughtless little pig”…
“There was a time when my greatest wish was to stab Harvey Levin with a rusty implement and watch his entrails go running down my forearm, in some Macbethian stance. I wanted him to die in my arms, while looking into my eyes, and I wanted to say to him, ‘Oh, Harvey, you thoughtless little pig.”
While celebrities aren’t always fans of the way Harvey carries out his practice; sometimes the people they should be blaming are the ones on their own team.That’s right – publicists sell out their own celebrities – tips actually come from people behind the scenes of some of the people that TMZ run their stories on.
Certain celebrities have fans that have long believed this was true, specifically fans of One Direction who have watched Louis, Harry, Zayn (before his departure), Niall, and Liam be absolutely slaughtered by headlines in the past. Some of the stories about the lads seemed almost planted to paint them in a bad light. From lothario rumors, to drug abuse, to tension behind the scenes driving them all apart…it seemed like a smear campaign against the boys was always in motion. Most fans of One Direction have long believed that their own ‘team’ were the people behind this and with good reason. If you’re a fan of the band and have done some research, the links to some of their team and certain media outlets are absolutely clear (not TMZ) – if they want to sell negative stories (and the intent is there) they definitely had a place to do so, even if the stories were littered in fallacies.
This is also true for a number of other celebrities; unfortunately, scandal sells faster than anything.
Sometimes, the celebs themselves are the ones calling Levin – although these stories are obviously less juicy – more along the lines of where they’ll be getting some spa treatment or an afternoon coffee than the latest scandal – they still present for some perfect pap shots, and we all know those sell too!
Just about anything done by a celebrity goes from being plain to being incredibly interesting, Harvey just found a way to cash in on that.
Speaking of cash, TMZ has paid over one hundred thousand dollars for some of their proof of that would eventually lead to breaking celebrity news. The videos of Ray Rice and his wife in the elevator? Those didn’t come cheap. However, it’s easy to spend the money to make the big bang when the pay off from that will be even more extensive.
So on top of Harvey being relentless and still smart enough to get stories in a way that works, publicists selling out their own clients, and even celebrities calling in on themselves – what other tricks of the trade does TMZ use to keep their top rank in celebrity gossip?
A lot of it has to do with the amount of tips they receive a minute, their ability to distinguish between what’s plausible and what isn’t, and the amount of time in which tips become stories. Harvey and TMZ have been around long enough to know what makes sense, what doesn’t, and what big stories are sure to make the biggest headlines.
In a world that relishes in scandal, it’s pretty much solidified that if a story is sure to make a splash, TMZ is going to find a way to cover it. No price is too high, few lines are uncrossable, and no celebrity is safe from people that want to make a buck.