You’ve heard the news by now that basketball legend Kobe Bryant perished in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people aboard the craft. But CNN has just revealed that gossip hub TMZ broke the news before law enforcement officers had contacted the families of the victims.
TMZ posted the scoop at 11:24 a.m., just an hour after police became aware of the crash. How did they manage to find out what happened so quickly? In a word: connections. TMZ is known for having a network of people placed throughout LA’s entertainment industry as well as first responders, health care professionals, and other well-placed sources.
Unlike most outlets, TMZ often pays their tipsters–making it more likely that people with valuable info will go to them first. And in the fast-paced world of online reporting, getting the scoop is more important than ever. They were the first to report Michael Jackson’s death, as well as Whitney Houston and Prince.
TMZ founder Harvey Levin doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way they do business. “It’s so funny to me that people ask that question,” he said in a 2016 interview. “We’re a news operation. I mean, that’s what you’re supposed to do as a news operation is chase down stories. And it always kind of amuses me when people ask that question. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing? I mean, that is the job.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva had some harsh words for the gossip outlet, saying in a press conference: “It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one … perished and you learn about it from TMZ. That is just wholly inappropriate.”
Tim Murakami, the LA County Undersheriff, echoed Villanueva’s remarks on Twitter: “I am saddened that I was gathering facts as a media outlet reported … Kobe had passed. I understand getting the scoop but please allow us time to make personal notifications to their loved ones. It’s very cold to hear of the loss via media. Breaks my heart.”
Do you think TMZ has a right to report breaking news as soon as possible?