WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Celebrity Gossip & Journalism

Feb 24, 2016

A recent article in the New Yorker profiled the founder of TMZ, the organization that reports on celebrity gossip and entertainment news.  TMZ sometimes breaks stories that are of interest to a wider audience, which got the Shop Talk panelists discussing the quality of its work.

Jasmine Crighton said TMZ broke the news of Michael Jackson’s death, though the TV station she worked for at the time insisted on verifying the information with what it considered a more reputable source before running the story.  She feels that attitude might be changing a bit as TMZ becomes known for breaking stories about celebrities.

Crighton pointed out TMZ also obtained the video that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching out his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator – video the NFL either was unable to get or was unwilling to make public.

Jonathan Ahl said TMZ is good at doing something the public seems to want. And he said sometimes TMZ does real journalism, such as when it follows the paper trail in court documents. 

But Ahl said for every one or two cases like that, it does thousands of bits that are gossip mongering, borderline stalking, and other things he does not want associated with journalism.  He said TMZ should not be considered reputable just because it practices sound journalism every once in a great while.

Rich Egger is surprised to see actual journalism practiced by TMZ occasionally.  But he has a problem with paying for news, which is something TMZ seems to do with regularity – through Crighton pointed out that’s happening more often with mainstream TV news organizations too.