The 12 Most Shocking Things We Learned From The TMZ Exposé

Photo: Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images.
When you think of TMZ, you probably think of celebrity mugshots (ahem, Khloé Kardashian), surveillance camera footage (who can forget that disturbing Ray Rice video?), and countless, somewhat sleazy paparazzi pictures (here, here, and here).

Regardless of the punny headlines and obnoxious all-caps captions, the site has always soared in page views. Last month, the site attracted over 17 million unique visitors, according to Quantcast.

Chances are, much to their chagrin, most media outlets turn to TMZ as their No. 1 source for celebrity news. TMZ is, at its core, more focused on investigative reporting than amateur fluff pieces. But, in either case, its main goal is to keep the never-ending rumor mill churning.

So, how did the TMZ empire begin? Add how has it become this blend of celebrity trash and treasure?

The New Yorker
, a magazine known for its deep dives into topics that many of readers find hard to grasp in one sitting, sent in a reporter, Nicholas Schmidle, to get his own dirt on the site, its origins, and its methods. Schmidle was unable to talk directly with the site's founder and "dictator," Harvey Levin, who has not yet commented on the piece, either.

Below are the craziest and most surprising facts we learned from the exposé. Which one shocked you most?

1. The site runs off of anonymous tips.
The site depends on tips from sources, and they get more than 100 every single day.

2. It breaks major news stories.
The site broke the news of Michael Jackson's death in 2009. Hundreds of court and legal documents file in and out of the building every day, regarding celebrity arrests, lawsuits, and other scandals.

3. Celebrities have a love-hate relationship with the site — and with Levin.
Alec Baldwin has some MAJOR beef with the site, which published a heated voicemail he left his daughter back in 2007. He told The New Yorker, “There was a time when my greatest wish was to stab Harvey Levin with a rusty implement and watch his entrails go running down my forearm, in some Macbethian stance. I wanted him to die in my arms, while looking into my eyes, and I wanted to say to him, ‘Oh, Harvey, you thoughtless little pig.’” The actor finished with, "He is a festering boil on the anus of American media.” However, other celebrities, like Britney Spears, can't get enough. “I can’t tell you how many times we got calls from Britney Spears, or her people, who called to say, ‘She’s going to get a tan,’” one staff member told Schmidle.

4. Levin started out in law, but converted to a celebrity journalist thanks to People magazine.
The site was founded in November of 2005 by Levin, who started his career teaching "with the law faculty at the University of Miami" before he switched gears and started working in journalism. He once said People magazine was like crack to him.

5. The O.J. Simpson case was a big moment for Levin, but not a successful one.

Levin caught his big break during the O.J. Simpson trial when the founder attempted to shed light on new evidence about the case, but ended up misreading the time stamp on a video.

6. The origin of the site's name is rooted in Hollywood.
The name "TMZ" hails from an old movie phrase "Thirty Mile Zone," which refers to the boundaries of the city of Los Angeles. Levin shortened it to TMZ. Other names considered were “Feed the Beast,” “Frenzie,” and “Buzz Feed.”

7. It only takes 10 minutes to break stories.
It once took less than 10 minutes for a breaking news story of a celebrity arrest to be confirmed and written up on the site. This timeline is very common for TMZ stories.

8. Celebrity publicists frequently give tips directly to TMZ.
Once publicists began to realize how successful the site was becoming, they started tipping off photographers about their own clients, who they were originally trying to protect from sites like TMZ.

9. A Kim K moment is one of Levin's favorite stories.

One of Levin's favorite TMZ moments involves Kim Kardashian, before she was famous. "Levine [TMZ's original photographer] captured footage of the actress Tara Reid standing behind the velvet rope outside of Hyde, a Los Angeles night club, while Paris Hilton — Reid’s former best friend — walked right in with a new friend, a previously unknown woman named Kim Kardashian."

10. Levin runs a tight ship.
The TMZ staff describes Levin as a dictator, and says he constantly insults and degrades them. One former assignment-desk producer told Schmidle, “Harvey has no problem publicly shaming you. He used to say, to all of us, ‘My fucking dogs are smarter than you!’ You become like a battered child. He beats you down, but the second you’re about to say, ‘Screw this place,’ he gives you a compliment, and you live for that.”

11. TMZ is not the same as paparazzi.
Or so the founder claims. Levin "insists" that his photographers are not paparazzi, but in most cases, we beg to differ.

And the most shocking of them all...

12. We don't even get to read the best stuff.
Levin has said that he often passes up the JUICIEST information (one involved 15-year-old Justin Bieber substituting the N-word in one of his song lyrics) due to his own personal "code." This inner moral "code" is probably surprising to most readers of the site. It's hard to even imagine the insanely scandalous information it might choose not to publish.

Read the entire The New Yorker article here.

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