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February 15, 2016 6:40 PM   Subscribe

The New Yorker unfurls a longform expose on Harvey Levin's gossip empire, TMZ, in The Digital Dirt - How TMZ gets the videos and photos that celebrities want to hide.
posted by Room 641-A (24 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Would I be willing to sell out hypothetical celebrity gossip I had for (five thousand, fifty thousand, five hundred thousand)? I'd like to think not, but...money talks. I know I wouldn't do it for free; I don't even like surreptitiously taking pictures of people, it feels wrong.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:52 PM on February 15, 2016


What if you had been innocently taking pictures somewhere and by chance happened to snap a celebrity doing something juicy?
posted by Sangermaine at 6:56 PM on February 15, 2016


.....how much? And did it happen in a public place where anyone could have seen it?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:01 PM on February 15, 2016


"By paying off the people who have access", if that saves anyone a click.
posted by mhoye at 7:16 PM on February 15, 2016 [16 favorites]


I stopped reading here:
The tip line also recorded a claim that a major pop star “wears a fake booty in her music videos” and employs a “person who makes the fake butts.”
Sometimes, you can just smell when an article has peaked.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:29 PM on February 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


"Would I be willing to sell out hypothetical celebrity gossip I had for (five thousand, fifty thousand, five hundred thousand)?"

I don't know; a lot of what they're paying the big money for is evidence of actual (often violent) crimes, where celebrity was used to cover it up. Honestly I'm not sure you'd have to PAY me to turn over what I had in that sort of case.

I've tipped local media about local and state political shanigans. Generally it's been stuff like, I saw some documents that show wrongdoing as part of an investigation, and I suggest to a reporter friend that FOIAing all documents from the agency in May might be helpful. Or once there was a state official who was super corrupt, everyone knew it, but the trail wasn't turning up, and I happened to get an email from him that was confirming my attendance at his political event ... Sent from a personal gmail address that wasn't in my address book rather than his usual government address. I thought that was super weird. I called a reporter friend working on the case and I was like, "I don't know if this is anything, but Joe Politician is carrying out some of his political business from his gmail address rather than his official one ... and that means you should be able to FOIA his personal address for official business." The reporter did, and sure enough there was lots of corrupt backroom dealing intending to avoid FOIA by using a private address.

A lot of it is more like what the article talks about - knowing how to hunt for court records, or talking to people who say, "If I were looking for that thing, here's where I'd look."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:16 PM on February 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


a lot of the behavior TMZ uncovers is pretty disgusting, and the celebrity balloons they pop richly deserve the popping. We're not talking ruining gay actor's career's by outing them. We're talking showing the world that the NFL doesn't care if its star player beat his girlfriend into unconsciousness in an elevator, or that a sweet faced pop star is actually a racist.

The entertainment industry wants kids' money, and I think it's perfectly fine to expose its characters for being unworthy of receiving it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:26 PM on February 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


But what if they paid good money for this kind of stuff...

But for some the significance of the Sterling and Rice stories called for a reassessment. In 2014, Adweek named Levin the digital editor of the year, noting, “Whatever topic your co-workers are talking about around the water-cooler, they probably read it first at TMZ.” The television journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell, who is a friend of Levin’s, told me, “Harvey’s a truth-teller—he has exposed things that people want to keep secret.” Sports Business Daily wrote, “Like it or not, the effect that TMZ’s coverage had with its Ray Rice and Donald Sterling stories was Watergate-esque.” And after Ben Bradlee, the former editor of the Washington Post, died, in late 2014, Deadline Hollywood praised TMZ’s “game-changing” work, and asked of Levin, “Is he the next gen Ben Bradlee, or just the face of the new incarnation of the National Enquirer?

...in Flint, Michigan, say?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:28 PM on February 15, 2016


A lot of it is more like what the article talks about - knowing how to hunt for court records, or talking to people who say, "If I were looking for that thing, here's where I'd look."

I just watched the movie Spotlight, and one of the key moments was having a character talk to a reporter with this specific type of tip. It helped break the story.
posted by el io at 9:30 PM on February 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Other hands went up. “I watch your show so much, read the Web site, like, all the time, so you’re just, like, my idol,” a young woman said.

Levin replied, “Thank you. Wow. That’s sad.”


I liked this.
posted by discopolo at 10:04 PM on February 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


I want a TMZ for non-celebrity random rich business people. We all know pharmabro now, but what are they rest of those random CEO's up too?
posted by Arbac at 10:13 PM on February 15, 2016 [25 favorites]




Where they're analogous to Wikileaks, I support them. Where they buy whatever the armies of cockroaches I have to work around outside stage doors who yell really terrible things at celebrities just to get a weird face to sell, or where armies of those assholes will run into traffic and over the hoods of peoples' cars to get a shot of someone in a car being driven out of a studio, they deserve whatever scorn they get. And believe me, for every one instance where they expose something important, there are a thousand instances of the latter.

The fact that you can hate the Enquirer and applaud the few truly important stories they break applies here. There is an ocean of scumbaggery and abuse to get the good things they get.
posted by nevercalm at 5:10 AM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Does this mean TMZ will now target the New Yorker and we will finally get to see the Malcolm Gladwell sex tape where he has mad anecdotal counter-intuitive confirmation-bias sex that either lasts 10,000 hours or is over in a blink?
posted by srboisvert at 5:30 AM on February 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


a lot of the behavior TMZ uncovers is pretty disgusting, and the celebrity balloons they pop richly deserve the popping. We're not talking ruining gay actor's career's by outing them. We're talking showing the world that the NFL doesn't care if its star player beat his girlfriend into unconsciousness in an elevator, or that a sweet faced pop star is actually a racist.

My own impression is that the kind of more substantive, disgusting behavior that TMZ uncovers is a very small part of their reporting, and that they are more likely to inflate celebrity ballons by acting as if the trivial aspects of the lives of the rich and famous are deserving of rapt attention. That may be my own confirmation bias at work; what makes you say that "a lot" of TMZ's reporting is worthwhile as more than entertainment?
posted by layceepee at 5:34 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Gawker tried that and it did not go well.

i'm not sure soliciting gay sex is comparable to mel gibson's anti-semitism or ray rice knocking a woman unconscious.
posted by andrewcooke at 5:58 AM on February 16, 2016


Levine recalled pursuing Britney Spears’s black Lexus through Beverly Hills. “She’d do U-turns on Beverly Boulevard to mess with us. I was on my motorcycle and there were, like, twenty-five other cars, all paps, weaving in and out of traffic, running red lights. It was a shit show.

This reminded me of Starlee Kine's attempt to solve the mystery of Britney Spears reading her friend's book on Mystery Show. Starlee is very patient and gracious, and only gets like two seconds to talk with Spears, whom the show presents as living in a kind of nigh-unbreachable bubble. This horrifying hunt-story helps put that in more perspective for me, that Spears needs to keep up that bubble pretty much 24/7. Anyway, both Starlee and Britney seem very nice.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:04 AM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


TMZ: a festering boil on the anus of American media
posted by Nelson at 6:34 AM on February 16, 2016


TMZ merely gives a small taste of what Would happen to Hollywood if all the publicists went out on strike.

And really, who cares. Hollywood is a fantasy factory. It's disposable eye candy with a few substantial thespians who sneak in once in awhile. But gossip sites and publication have their purpose of allowing people to emotionally invest in pseudo-celebs and the genuine variety. You can feel superior to them, heckle them, root for them before forgetting about them. You humanize them, debate about them, judge them, defend them, and can forget about your own dysfunctions for a spell.

I think they are missing the point about the function of gossip, though.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 6:43 AM on February 16, 2016


a lot of the behavior TMZ uncovers is pretty disgusting, and the celebrity balloons they pop richly deserve the popping. We're not talking ruining gay actor's career's by outing them. We're talking showing the world that the NFL doesn't care if its star player beat his girlfriend into unconsciousness in an elevator, or that a sweet faced pop star is actually a racist.

But they actually sat on the sweet-faced racist pop-star story, and instead ran cutesie stories about him. I've always thought of TMZ as part of the glorification of celebrity rather than fighting against it. The occasions when I've watched the show, it's clips like walking celebrities to their car outside restaurants and asking if they'd heard another celebrity has just died. Which seems unnecessary.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:24 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Blind items > TMZ
posted by infinitewindow at 8:16 AM on February 16, 2016


Yes, the mystery of the blind item commenter named Himmmm is a thousand times jucier than anything TMZ could ever hope to spill.

These massive stories that come out once in a while like Bill Cosby or Ray Rice or Bill Clinton shed a tiny light on how much awful stuff people in power are able to obscure and I know that they can only be the tip of the iceberg - it's upsetting and unbelievable. I know they aren't as reliable, but blind items do show cracks in that system far more often.
posted by R a c h e l at 9:03 AM on February 16, 2016


You know, I think it's kind of fun/funny (in that it makes me smile) that his business partner is a chiropractor.
posted by discopolo at 5:16 PM on February 16, 2016


I have to mention, though: that Ray Rice video---you know, someone had been quoted as saying it was shocking and very bad before TMZ released it, and even with someone saying it was "very bad", I did not imagine and could not have imagined exactly how horrible it was until I actually saw it. And I'm never going to forget it or the horror I felt watching it.
posted by discopolo at 5:23 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


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