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10 Reasons Why TMZ is Good for American Media and Culture

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Over the past four years I’ve crept slowly into the jagged womb of information that is entertainment journalism. I started out writing for posh, niche and somewhat pretentious arts and culture magazines and online media outlets, writing about music, sex and feminism. I somehow over time became a serious entertainment journalist, covering A-list entertainment, billion dollar business deals, crimes and accomplishments.

Before I started researching and covering massively successful Hollywood entertainers, all I knew of TMZ was the rag of a television show they air on local TV in the middle of the afternoon. I would indulge once in a while (very seldom, for I am never around televisions) and check out strange little interactions the journalists and paparazzi had with entertainers. But it wasn’t until I researched and covered the recent shooting of Suge Knight and watched TMZ break the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal that I realized TMZ has become an outlet for renegade journalism and activism.

Maybe TMZ have always thought of themselves this way. While VICE decided to take immersion journalism across the world, TMZ dominates domestic gossip and entertainment news by obtaining information almost immediately. They are becoming known to be first on the scene, and when I am researching a story, TMZ seems to always have the breaking news and for the most part, solid evidence.

I wanted to be the first to give a little perspective to why TMZ is good for American media and culture:

They Record Video

A lot of the news TMZ leaks is straight from video sources. Bystanders and professional TMZ journalists and paparazzi hum and stalk the street corners surrounding star-studded events, waiting to find an indiscretion. Many have traded in their traditional point and shoot cameras for video recording devices and cell phones.

They understand the importance of surveillance

Not only do TMZ contributors take their own videos, but they somehow find the most exclusive video in the form of footage from surveillance cameras and elevator camera footage. It is safe to say the way they get this footage is not always ethical, but the breaking of Ray Rice’s domestic abuse and they violent outburst from Solange Knowles towards Jay Z has made unprecedented headlines and has shown the dark side of celebrity culture.


They Are Very Prepared at Press Conferences

TMZ journalists and correspondence have been known to rip speakers at press conferences to shreds. At a recent press conference NFL Commissioner Robert Goodell  stated he wished he would have seen the video of Rice abusing his then-fiancée. A TMZ journalist retorted that they found the video with “one phone call”, completely taking the commissioner off guard. TMZ journalists are well informed and always armed with strong details.

They work with legions of fans and with scorned people who are out for revenge

Any wrongdoing by a celebrity is liable to be exposed by TMZ after receiving tips and evidence of nosey bystanders, angry friends and lovers, or greedy amateur paparazzi and celebrity bloggers.

Their brand and reputation is Global…if not a household name

Major American pop culture media outlet? Oh yes. The only difference between now and when the website started in 2005 is that their work is getting more comprehensive and meticulous. They’re not leaking nude pics but are now exposing major scandals. The Ray Rice domestic abuse incident is one timely example of how impactful TMZ’s reporting can be. They initially released video in February showing Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator, and then released another video last month showing the altercation from inside the elevator. In addition to providing video evidence of the incident, TMZ has acknowledged that the NFL was aware of the video in its entirety from the start. This has caused the NFL to not only change their policy on handling domestic violence, but the commissioner of the league is now under heavy scrutiny as well.

They’ve been viral since day one

All the deepest and shallowest scandals came from TMZ in their early days. The Kim Kardashian sex tape, reports and photos of Rihanna’s abuse by Chris Brown and Mel Gibson’s DUI incident were all first brought to the public’s attention by TMZ. This media powerhouse is so ahead of the curb because its of ability to find and execute information within moments of uncovering it. There is no one better at blowing up an enticing headline within seconds. Don’t underestimate the force of the internet, USB and a snarky-ass reporter.

The managing editor is a lawyer

Behind the sleaze and the drama is an intellectual and experienced lawyer. Founder and managing editor, Harvey Levin, started the site in November 2005 after a career as an attorney and legal analyst for various television networks. TMZ does not only appeal to tabloid junkies, but this publication goes hand in hand with reputable newspapers, media outlets, commentators and press secretaries. They also know how to keep their butt out of trouble…as much as a renegade publication can. There have been reports of Levin passing on stories because he questioned the legitimacy of the methods his sources used to gain their information. So obviously TMZ draws the line somewhere.


Similar to Adbusters, Occupy?

Not quite. They’re not there yet , even it if that is the goal, which it probably is not. TMZ has just happened to be reporting and bringing light to scandals that are changing the face or entertainment and popular culture for the better. They Ray Rice scandal will hopefully protect the wives, girlfriends and lovers of NFL players until the end of time. TMZ has done a good thing, and they want to see a change. The Ray Rice video is sickening and sheds light on an issue that isn’t commonly addressed – violence among professional athletes. TMZ was at every press conference looking for answers as to why the NFL didn’t further investigate the video from the beginning.

They’re a great resource for other investigative entertainment reporters

Journalists need the truth. The Associated Press can be a bit vague when breaking news, and although amazing papers like the L.A. Times find great interviews and quotes from reputable sources, police, and politicians, they are not as quick in getting the information to the public because of fact checking, and all those things journalists should do. TMZ gets information out fast and are rarely wrong because of their ability to document instances on video. They help important news spread quickly, and sometimes they help invasive private troubles of entertainers spread quickly as well.

TMZ shows the unadulterated undeniable truth

How do you hide from pure evidence? How can society ignore people being caught in the act? TMZ holds a mirror up to us, and holds a mirror up to Hollywood. Are there things that need to be changed such as abuse, manipulation, infidelity, discrimination and violence in our culture’s entertainment industry? For sure. TMZ are activists for that change.

With all the seemingly unethical things TMZ has done, their latest work on the Ray Rice and Rihanna cases have opened a dialogue in American culture about domestic violence and women’s rights. I think TMZ should be celebrated for the investigative work they do because sometimes, their reports really do promote change and force us to take a hard look at ourselves as a national community. No matter what TMZ’s motives and tactics for obtaining sensitive material and video actually are, they sometimes help and more than they hurt. I do feel deeply for the victims involved and do not want to ignore their needs and rights for privacy.


images from TMZ, Baltimore Sun, Reddy Live

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Jordannah Elizabeth - Commonwealth Columnist

Jordannah Elizabeth - Commonwealth Columnist

Jordannah Elizabeth is a musician, music journalist, author, model and the founder of The Process Records Media Group. Jordannah started Jordan’s River Promotions in 2004 in Denver, CO where she specialized in art and music event coordination, and artist and model management at 18 years old.

In 2007, she moved to Los Angeles and started The Process: Net Label to organize her personal music catalog that was growing harder to manage each year. In November 2010, she started booking events in partnership with Hangman Booking for Fat Baby in Manhattan, NY and other clubs in the Metropolitan area.

Jordannah Elizabeth currently works as an arts and culture journalist and and the editor of The Deli Magazine San Francisco. She contributes to a plethora of reputable websites and print publications. Jordannah’s passion for music, fashion and culture is unprecedented, and her wide range of knowledge of indie, psych, and experimental rock makes her a sought after insider in the music industry.