TMZ Founder to Traditional Media Outlets: Get Like Me

by Jamilah Lemieux

It was only two years ago that many of us sat glued to our computers and televisions for hours waiting for news about singer Michael Jackson after word hit that he was suffering cardiac arrest. Meanwhile, TMZ.com was already running stories with the “Michael Jackson R.I.P. 1958-2009″ banner as we refused to believe he had passed until a ‘legit’ outlet like CNN or ABC told us so. That scoop was a sign of things to come for the brand which had also been the first to reveal Mel Gibson’s racist tirade following his DUI arrest in 2006.This week, TMZ founder Harvey Levin had the opportunity to address the National Press Club, which is not the sort of privilege typically befitting someone who is essentially a celebrity blogger. And he had a strong message: newspapers and magazines should leave print altogether if they wish to survive, for the internet takeover is only going to go deeper, get stronger. Hmm…As the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi points out, its a bit out of the box to see Levin ” go all media visionary” while addressing the press, considering that his brand was built off of the backs of the Kardashians, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. However, Levin is one of the most successful entertainment news entrepreneurs to emerge from the internet. The New York Times lists TMZ.com as the 10th most cited source by other news orgs, besting the Los Angeles Times, ABC News and the Financial Times. Something is working in the house Levin built…or people have just gotten a lot less ‘serious’ when it comes to the sort of news they prioritize. Or, most likely, a combination of both.

Levin also had advise for television news outlets, suggesting TMZ TV’s conversational and humorous approach to reporting would breath new life to the long-standing newscast format.

Despite the fact that 45 million people still purchase print papers each day and Americans purchased 325 million magazines last year, the 61-year-old insists that print is dead. “What is the magic of holding a piece of paper in the air when you read?” he asked. “You [in the news media] think you have to preserve this? Why?” Young people aren’t interested in the traditional media,” said Levin. “It doesn’t speak to them.” He told the press corps that as television and internet continue to merge “This is a revolution. And also, an opportunity.”


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  • http://twitter.com/BlasianBytch N’jaila Rhee

    As a journalist this disgusts me.

  • The Comment

    When my future son does something spectacular that is deserving of a news story…I want to frame the news article above my mantle; not download it for friends and family.

    Sure, there are waay more options for news. I no longer have to depend on the networks to frame the story for me. Meaning I’m not confined to an Ivy League educated white male perspective anymore. A site called Newspaper Map allows me to read any online newspaper up and running from any country across the globe. Even YouTube is a great source for news now days. But I still like to pick up a paper from time to time.

    But….magazines…I have to hold. It is fashion that I have to observe on a glossy piece of paper. I would not subject my eyes to stare at a computer for that length of time unless I was editing it myself. Sometimes I have appointments in shady neighborhoods….I wouldn’t dare pull out my iPhone while waiting. But pull out a magazine and people think you are weird.

    Levin is right to some degree and I give him credit for changing the stiff, conservative–I’m the smartest person in the world cause I’m reading a teleprompter’ nature of newscast but print media is not dead by any means.

  • http://commentarybyval.blogspot.com/ Val

    TMZ is one of the most racist shows on television. I shudder to think that anyone in the mainstream media would listen to a goofball like Harvey Levin.

    Newspapers aren’t failing because of lack of interest by the public. Papers are failing because they already think they can’t compete with online media. Newspaper people have been predicting their own demise for a long time now.

    If newspapers covered their city, in depth every day, no online site would be able to compete. When papers get lazy and wire stories make up the majority of what they print then why would readers go to them for something already online?

    Go local! Cover your city! That’s what will save print media.

  • African Mami

    Print is NOT dead! I still read my newspapers. Blogging is not the new journalism! I RESPECT journalism and as such, could not even dare take him seriously. TMZ is all white celebrity news….I care because?! Miss me with that grandpa!

  • Mimi

    I can only agree with Levin to a certain extent. He’s talking about how young people don’t want to hold a newspaper, but what about people who aren’t young? My parents would NEVER read their newspaper online and I don’t know of too many baby-boomers or senior citizens who would read their paper online either.

    I also have to agree with The Comment. When it comes to my magazines, and I subscribe to about 15, I need to hold them in my hands. I love the beautiful professional photos and yes, I know I could get that online as well, but there’s just something about holding it in my hands that makes me savor the experience more. Same for books. I’m SO on the fence about buying a Kindle because I just love holding the book in my hands and the anticipation of turning the page. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to eventually buy one, but for now, give me my books and magazines!

  • The Comment

    I agree w/all the comments. Everyone is right.

    OMG!!!! Can you imagine San Francisco only has ONE newspaper when the city used to have 3. It is scary. The consolidation of news agencies have limited the voices of the community. And when I say community I’m talking ALL Communities. You have to be a st8 up news junkie and have friends in high and low places to know what’s going on around here.

    For example; SF Gate did not report that the missing iPhone4 prototype went missing AGAIN at a BAR. So Apple hired their own detectives and enlisted the help of the SFPD…
    The private detectives located the phone at a residence home and with the help of sworn officers with intimidating guns, entered w/o a warrant!!!!! They did not find the phone. The SFPD spun a lie saying the SFPD helped Apple Computers locate the phone. With all the crime going on in this city where tourist get shot and jacked all the time—when does SFPD have time to look for a damn phone????

    I just happened to listen to talk radio on a Sunday on one of those super geeky computer call ins when the radio host sounded the alarm.

    Just a minor example of…..we really have no clue to what is really going on in our society at large cause corporations have taken away our voice.

  • Jaslene

    How is it racisit? I think TMZ is one of the best shows on television its like watching a sitcom even my mother and father have become hooked. Its got great characters.

  • http://thisismysoapbox.wordpress.com/ FFFFFF

    As a journalist (not practicing), I am not!

    It’s just a fact that print has seen better days. The only reasons news outlets are hesitant to go to the online format is because they haven’t found a way to make money off of the internet. If the formula was clear, newspapers (as we know it) would be obsolete. The current format doesn’t make that much money and many are considering charging for even accessing the website.

    Many news organization are praising Steve Jobs for coming out with the iPad because if it wasn’t for them, those few bits of revenues they make wouldn’t exist. Journalists are also dealing with influential bloggers.

    The problem with this profession is that they think so highly of themselves, yet make so little and are increasingly losing their legitimacy for x and y reasons (objectivity, organizations ideologies and at times lack of sources).

    Let’s just face the facts.

  • entro

    The only thing TMZ has over other media outlets right now is that it seems they have sources EVERYWHERE. They have been able to get many stories 1st.
    But other than that they seem to Dumb down the news, just as local news stations.
    International news,NPR, and many internet sites seem to give you a more in depth
    perspective.

  • whilome

    Ever notice how Harvey Levin’s outlet treats women in the news? They always report that Vivid entertainment is offering such-and-so a porn contract. Whether it is some down and out celebrity or Amanda Knox, hours after her release from prison.

    They constantly sexualize female public figures by “reporting’ that some pornographer would pay top dollar for their appearance, leading otherwise reputable women to have to officially deny wanting to appear in porn.

    Last week, TMZ took the cake when they “reported” that the Lingerie Football League was “recruiting Paris Jackson.” Sexualizing a 13 year old?! There was absolutely no reason to repeat that bs. That’s like “reporting” that a bunch of men are doing a “jailbait countdown” for Willow Smith to start doing porn. Who would fix their hands to type that into a story? And for what? A couple of clicks? Too through. I won’t click on their site even they report Jesus came back on a spaceship with whatever was in Al Capone’s vault. Get like them? Never.

  • http://commentarybyval.blogspot.com/ Val

    @Jaslene

    When I watch the show the TMZ people always seem to go out of their way to mention someone’s race if they are not White for absolutely no reason at all. So to them White people get to just be people but people of color always have to first be whatever race they are.

  • sweetpisces

    “You [in the news media] think you have to preserve this? Why?” Young people aren’t interested in the traditional media,” THA HELL OUTTA HERE WITH THAT. This is similar to cds for me, i like the fact that people take the time to put something in print and that takes hard work as well. To me, print is more valuable, and anybody can put something on the internet these days. TMZ is not that substantial..it’s built on scum.

  • sweetpisces

    EXACTLY!!

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