TMZ.com is a website that is devoted to give the latest news on celebrities. It debuted in December 2005, and is a joint venture between AOL and Telepictures Productions, a division of Warner Bros. The letters TMZ actually stands for thirty-mile zone which is a reference to the “studio zone” within a thirty-mile radius of the intersection of West Beverly Boulevard and North La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles. Shooting within this zone is construed as local. Locations beyond this zone are ultimately subject to mileage and travel time charges by the talent and crew.
TMZ’s current managing editor is Harvey Levin, who is a lawyer-turned-journalist who started out as a legal expert on LA’s KCBS-TV. The site alleges that it does not pay for stories or interviews. Levin however has admitted that TMZ does “sometimes pay sources for leads on stories”. He has also declared that “everything is researched and vetted for accuracy.”.
In the early part of 2009, TMZ did full coverage on the story of how Chicago’s Northern Trust Bank received $1.6 billion in federal bailout money and then spent millions of dollars on a set of lavish parties and concerts in Los Angeles at venues that included the House of Blues featuring performances by Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, and Sheryl Crow and gift bags from Tiffany’s. As soon as the story was published, United States Congressman Barney Frank quickly demanded that Northern Trust repay all the money it received from the bailout. Northern Trust CEO Frederick Waddell then responded by sending a letter to members of the House Financial Services Committee. The letter stated that the bank would repay all the money owing “as quickly as prudently possible.”
The media website also sparked another controversy again in early 2009, when it released what has been pinpointed as a police evidence photo of pop-singer Rihanna after she was beaten by now ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. This became a great topic of interest and an apparent blow to the police force which was very strict about keeping this information private.
TMZ was also the first to report the death of well known pop icon Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009. The report was not quickly accepted by mainstream media sources at the time, although it had been cited on rolling news channels. TMZ’s very early scoop outdid the major broadcast and cable news outlets by almost 3 hours, until CNN finally confirmed the story also. This delay was later explained by the other media houses as “stricter confirmation standards”, however TMZ also claimed to have verified several sources in obtaining confirmation of the story.
TMZ.com has many times been criticized for its, what may be considered, misuse of photographs and videos from paparazzi. There are some people that have questioned the effect that forceful and intrusive photographers have on the celebrities that they attempt to cover. There are many videos on the website that simply display stars being chased by paparazzi, a practice that has widely been considered dangerous and disturbing. Paparazzi who typically sell to sites like TMZ.com can earn thousands of dollars in any given week. In the years since its inception, some have demanded a boycott of TMZ.com and its accompanying television show.