TMZ and The Superficial

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TMZ

Image:tmz_logo.jpg

TMZ is a joint effort between AOL and Telepictures Production, a portion of Warner Brothers. TMZ was launched with the purpose of featuring celebrity gossip, including interviews, photos, and video coverage. The website was started on February 15, 1996. Based on Alexa’s traffic rankings it has a ranking of 938 ("the rank of a site reflects both the number of users who visit that site as well as the number of pages on the site viewed by those users")[1]. TMZ.com covers scandals focused on drugs and drinking, arrests, drama in the courtrooms, divorces and custody battles. Its claim to fame is the ability to have reports of celebrity news and scandals before other sources and attaining proof from photos, videos and even legal documents to prove their validity. TMZ claims to have changed the way that the public gets celebrity news by providing news as it is happening. TMZ recently developed an audio comment feature to their website to encourage reader participation. Readers are allowed to post comments and their opinions on the issues addressed at the website, this has encouraged an increase in participation. [2] Newsweek describes TMZ as "the next phase in the evolution of celebrity journalism, a development that leaves pundits and players feeling either queasy or compelled, depending on whom you ask" [3].

TMZ, or Thirty Mile Zone, was named after the location that many believe is the heart of Hollywood. It encompasses 30 miles surrounding the intersection of Beverly Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard, hence The Thirty Mile Zone.


TMZ Screenshot
TMZ Screenshot

Beginnings

The site named Harvey Levin, formerly executive producer of Celebrity Justice, as its managing editor. Levin had played a key role in the OJ Simpson following, including airing a video of the district attorney illegally searching Simpson's house. Levin later retracted the video, and apologized. Originally not a success, TMZ turned around when its reporters caught grandson of oil tycoon Marvin Davis, Brandon Davis walking down Sunset Boulevard with Paris Hilton. Davis then drunkenly rambled about Lindsay Lohan [4]. The video received more than 2.5 million hits, and launched TMZ into the forefront of celebrity gossip.

TMZ Explodes

Other notable videos covered on TMZ are Mel Gibson's drunken anti-semitic speech and Michael Richard's racist tirade [5]. TMZ also broke the news of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline's marriage. [6] Many of the site's articles are later picked up by larger news organizations, such as Associated Press and CNN. The New York Times notes that "TMZ.com’s reach extends well beyond the approximately nine million people who visit the Web site each month. The site has become a reliable source for the mainstream media, which has become less self-conscious about reporting every detail of celebrity missteps" [7]. Last December alone, TMZ received 64 million hits. In 2006, Time Magazine named TMZ as one of the coolest website on the internet. Newsweek named TMZ the "Breakout Blog of 2007". [8]

Recently, on September 10, 2007, it expanded its growth to the television phenomenon called TMZ on TV. The show is hosted and produced by Harvey Levin. It uses a C-Span style format celebrity gossip news, identical to the website.

Controversy

TMZ has received some heavy criticism regarding its continued support of paparazzi patrolling of celebrities, especially after Princess Diana's death. It is estimated that a cameraman can make anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 a week, privileging the continued frenzy of paparazzi [9]. After TMZ posted an angry voicemail message that Alex Baldwin left on his daughter's answering machine, he criticized TMZ writers, saying “you find out that everybody who works in tabloid media are people who are filled with self-hatred and shame, and the way they manage those feelings is they destroy the lives of other people.”[10] Time Warner has always owned People Magazine, so it has been criticized for entering the seedier side of celebrity followings. TMZ is also noted for taking on Page Six. TMZ has also been criticized for broadcasting purchased news material that was stolen from Steven Spielberg's office pertaining to the upcoming Indiana Jones 4. [11] TMZ was also brought to court over the publishing of O.J. Simpson's book If I Did It on the website, in violation of copyright laws [12].

The Superficial

Image:thesuperficial.gif

The Superficial is a blog devoted to celebrity gossip and popular news. The site owner(s) describe the blog as "a brutally honest look at society and its obsession with the superficial...It is the voice of our society at its worst. It is first impressions without any sense of social obligation...Just kidding. Our goal is to make fun of as many people as possible."[13] The Superficial, along with the two other blogs it links to (Geekologie and I Watch Stuff) draw their stories both from other similar blogging websites and commercially owned news sites.

The Superficial Screenshot
The Superficial Screenshot

The Beginnings

The website was started on May 23, 2004 and is part of the Southern California based Anticlown Media network.[14] Based on Alexa’s traffic rankings it has a ranking of 2, 237 ("the rank of a site reflects both the number of users who visit that site as well as the number of pages on the site viewed by those users")[15].

About

While other celebrity news sites focus on glorifying celebrities, The Superficial.com focuses on revealing and trashing them. The website is not a primary source for scandal news stories but rather an author voicing one’s opinion about the breaking news stories and particular celebrity. Each story begins with a picture (usually relevant to the context of the post) of the particular celebrity/celebrities that will be discussed, followed by the summary of the event, a quote from another source and finally the bashful and comical analysis by the author. It further provides the users to place their input on the issues addressed.

Coverage

The Superficial is a website devoted to celebrity gossip; some articles are based on rumor while others are supported by photos, other news sources, or insiders. The website never claims that its information as valid or true. However, the photographs posted on the website speak for themselves, most of the time the photos are of celebrities caught in an embarrassing, awkward or unlawful moment or a possibility of one. The writing following the photographs is in a parody, sarcastic and satirical format. Moreover, their acclaim comes from their ability to present and attain information that all other media sites have not discussed.

Although generally a celebrity gossip centered website, The Superficial focuses on the lifestyles of prominent female celebrities. The list of featured celebrities is topped by Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsey Lohan. Celebrities are often criticized with a sarcastic tone way for their lifestyle choices and day-to-day actions. In general the website seems targeted towards men, as it frequently features pictures of attractive female celebrities and models. The website is not written by one person but is a virtual gossip hub that is used and contributed to by numerous of people, without revealing their identity. Many of the posts are the result of readers or friends alerting the writers about breaking news stories.

Citizen Journalism

TMZ and The Superficial are members of a growing class of websites grouped into the category of Citizen Journalism. According to an article written in Online Journalism Review which was referenced in the Citizen Journalism page on Wikipedia, there are 6 different categories for Citizen Journalism.

1) Audience participation (such as user comments attached to news stories, personal blogs, photos or video footage captured from personal mobile cameras, or local news written by residents of a community)
2) Independent news and information Websites (Consumer Reports, Drudge Report)
3) Full-fledged participatory news sites (OhmyNews)
4) Collaborative and contributory media sites (Slashdot, Kuro5hin)
5) Other kinds of "thin media." (mailing lists, email newsletters)
6) Personal broadcasting sites [16]


Both TMZ and The Superficial fall into category 1. They are blog sites that allow user "tips"(heads up to potential news stories) and comments. Celebrity gossip news blogs represent a new gray area for news reporting in the media. News is no longer written just by reporters, but now can be conducted by anyone with a youtube account. TMZ and theSuperficial.com represent the logical next step that brings photos and coverage of the everyday lives of celebrities that the public is obviously dying for. In the past, celebrity news had relied on the agenda of the big news agencies- it was not to their advantage to report negatively on celebrities starring in their upcoming films [17].

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Notes

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