“I’d have to talk people off cliffs,” Weakland said.“I’d tell them, ‘We’re not going to reveal our sources, because we want you to be a source for us again.” Kurtz asked.“It’s so funny to me that people ask that question,” Levin replied. I mean, that’s what you’re to do.” Indeed, the site has built a deep network of sources, including entertainment lawyers, reality-television stars, adult-film brokers, and court officials, allowing Levin to knock down the walls that guard celebrity life.(He declined repeated requests for an interview.) TMZ has paid at least one mole inside B. S., a limousine service, to provide lists of celebrity customers, their planned routes, and the license-plate numbers of their vehicles. source—“a Hispanic gentleman”—at a gas station in Van Nuys, handing over an envelope filled with cash, and receiving in return a client list.“That’s the beauty of TMZ.”Though Levin has changed the rules for confirming gossip, by insisting on documentary proof, scandal has been chronicled for millennia.Thirty-five hundred years ago, Mesopotamian scribes used cuneiform to record the impeachment hearings of a mayor who had been accused of corruption, kidnapping, adultery, and the theft of manure.(In a 2015 e-mail, a TMZ employee asked colleagues if anyone had yet established a source at Uber.) Justin Kaplan, a former production associate at TMZ, recalls meeting a B. The process had been so well honed, Kaplan told me, that “we barely said a word to each other.”At least one employee of Delta Airlines supplies TMZ with the names and itineraries of celebrity passengers travelling through Los Angeles and New York.In an e-mail dated January 29, 2014, a TMZ manager informed her colleagues that the star of an ABC drama had been spotted sitting in first class, in seat 2A, on Delta Flight 1061, from Orlando to Los Angeles, when his plane was rerouted to Dallas—the result of a bomb threat issued on Twitter.
When the video was posted on TMZ, Rice’s attorney issued a statement, warning viewers not to make judgments until “all of the facts” emerged, adding, “Neither Ray nor myself will try this case in the media.” Three months later, Rice and Palmer held a press conference. This one, bought for almost ninety thousand dollars, revealed what occurred inside the elevator: after the doors shut, Rice punched Palmer on the left side of her head. Gillian Sheldon, TMZ’s first publicist, who later became a supervising producer, said, “Once, Sumner Redstone”—the former executive chairman of Viacom, who is ninety-two—“told him that one of the secrets of his longevity was that he ate blueberries every day.
(On the day the Fox interview aired, TMZ’s home page featured an “exclusive” about Iggy Azalea, the Australian rapper, who was threatening to sue an adult-film company over the release of a sex tape.) Levin’s face lit up.
“We’ve been around for nine years, and if you look at the stories that we’ve broken they are stories that literally every newscast in America has put on the air,” he said.
After guards responded to the incident in the lobby, several surveillance officers gathered and wondered aloud if a tape of Rice and Palmer could be sold to TMZ—the Web site that, since its inception, in 2005, has taken a merciless approach to celebrity news.
At around ., one of the surveillance officers, sitting at a monitoring-room computer, reviewed footage from a camera that faced the elevator and, using a cell phone, surreptitiously recorded the screen. It was the middle of the night in Los Angeles, where TMZ is based, so a message was left on the tip line. On September 29, 2015, an internal e-mail summarizing tips from the previous night referred to “info regarding George Clooney’s wedding,” “a video of a pro athlete getting attacked by a goat,” and “pictures of Meek Mill being incarcerated.” (The e-mail is one of many that were leaked to ) The tip line also recorded a claim that a major pop star “wears a fake booty in her music videos” and employs a “person who makes the fake butts.”Many tipsters ask to be paid, and the site often complies.