My latest column for the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana is on TMZ and its coverage of the Ray Rice story.
From the column:
I never have been a fan of TMZ. In fact, I am repulsed by all celebrity journalism. Actually, let’s not even dare to call it journalism.
So I’m not buying into all the glorification of TMZ in the wake of the site busting the Ray Rice story wide open with the horrifying video of the running back delivering the knockout blow to his now current wife.
Among the plaudits:
“All hail TMZ! Say what you want about the website, which trolls every avenue possible to find celebrity grit and grime, but it has had a pretty strong couple of years when it comes to the world of sports.”
“When the first video of Ray Rice dragging his then-fiancee off a casino elevator like a slab of meat appeared, I thought, ‘God bless TMZ.’
“With TMZ’s release of video today showing him punching Janay Palmer twice and knocking her to the floor, I say, God bless TMZ again and again.”
Media critic Joe Strupp, writing on his blog even dare to utter the P-word when it comes to TMZ:
“Does the fallout also qualify TMZ.com for journalism’s biggest prize. Could it win them a Pulitzer?
“While the Pulitzer Prize has long been the province of newspapers, it was expanded in recent years to give websites a chance. Since then, sites from Politico to the Center for Public Integrity, have been named finalists and winners.
“Why not TMZ.com?”
In the name of Woodward and Bernstein, I can think of a million reasons why.
There’s no denying that TMZ has become a major force in breaking the Donald Sterling story and now with Rice. But did the site get these stories by employing brilliant journalism techniques? Or did the site just open its wallet?
Unless someone says otherwise, it is hard to believe some cash wasn’t exchanged with the Rice videos. Somebody likely approached TMZ and asked, “How much are you willing to pay?”
TMZ probably paid quite a bit.
Now perhaps there was more reporting involved here. Maybe TMZ got wind that someone had the videos and went to that person. But I would bet on the first scenario I illustrated. Either way, I would be stunned if money didn’t change hands.
And here’s the link to the rest of the column.