How TMZ Owned 2014 and Became a Reputable Source for Celebrity News

  • Ray and Janay Rice

    [Photo Credit: Getty Images]

  • Jay-Z, Beyonce, Solange Knowles

    [Photo Credit: Splash News]

  • Donald Sterling

    [Photo Credit: Splash News]

  • Justin Bieber

    [Photo Credit: Splash News]

  • Wyclef Jean April Showers

    [Photo Credit: Splash News]

  • Lady Gaga R. Kelly

    [Photo Credit: Getty Images]

  • Stephen Collins

    [Photo Credit: Splash News]

Without a doubt, 2014 was TMZ’s year. The former celebrity rag has been working hard to become a reputable source of news, and has stepped up its game to provide some of the year’s most thoroughly reported celebrity stories. When TMZ first launched in beta in 2005, it was an exercise in gossipmongering, designed to rival sites like Perez Hilton and Just Jared. TMZ’s first “big” story was obtaining and disseminating video of Paris Hilton’s drunken car accident in 2005. In those early days, TMZ was predominantly a source for scandal, rather than investigative journalism or “hard” news. If a celebrity so much as sneezed, you could bet TMZ would be there to turn it into a circus, regardless of the relevance or even the voracity of the claims.

Since then, TMZ has increasingly built its own portfolio of investigative journalism. In 2014, the site was responsible for breaking some of the biggest stories, and acquiring some of the most damning evidence, of the year, from the Ray Rice elevator incident to Stephen Collins’ confession of child molestation. Today, TMZ is no longer just for celebrity gossip; it’s often the first stop for breaking celebrity news.

Along with the original site, TMZ now has three television programs (TMZ Live, TMZ on TV, and Dax Chat) and separate online verticals dedicated to sports and television, giving them a sizable hold on the celebrity news cycle. “TMZ has become a source for breaking news simply because of their access,” says entertainment expert Kathy Iandoli. “They dig deeper into incidents with lightning speed and will interview anyone from janitors or clubgoers to gain information.” The financial resources at TMZ’s disposal are as astounding as their online presence. Considering they allegedly paid $250,000 for the Jay-Z-Solange elevator tape, it can’t be denied that TMZ is a behemoth when it comes to their investigative purview.

“I have relied on TMZ just based upon the nature of their factual information over the last few years, especially in 2014,” Iandoli says. “But before this year, they were the very first to report Michael Jackson’s passing among other momentous events and with accuracy, which is surprising given their beginnings.” Despite founder Harvey Levin’s questionable image in the public eye, TMZ is still pervasive, and working towards being well respected. “They may be invasive but they’re thorough,” Iandoli adds. “And when it comes to breaking celebrity news, that’s exactly what is needed.”

It’s difficult to picture the celebrity news landscape in 2014 without TMZ, which has been responsible for apprehending criminals and exposing hidden elements of pop culture. Take a look at TMZ’s biggest stories of 2014, and the effects these stories had on the world.

Ray and Janay Rice Domestic Violence Incident

Published 9/8/2014 at 1am

Earlier this year, the world had seen footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious then-fiance Janay out of an elevator. Based on this, and the allegation that Ray’s violence was responsible for Janay’s state, the NFL suspended Ray for two games. Once TMZ released graphic video of Ray punching Janay inside the elevator nearly six months later, he was dropped by the Ravens and banned from the NFL.

Rice was reinstated by the league on Nov. 28, but it’s yet to be seen if any team is willing to sign, and thus align themselves with, the athlete.

NeNe Leakes discusses the impact of the Ray Rice case on Big Morning Buzz Live.

The Jay Z and Solange Knowles Elevator Fight

Published 5/12/2014 at 8:22am

The Carter-Knowles family spends a lot of time keeping their private affairs private, with an incredibly curated public image. So when TMZ obtained footage of a violent incident between the family, everything changed. The video saw Solange attacking her brother-in-law inside an elevator, following an after party for the 2014 Met Ball. “I would tie the Ray Rice incident and the Jay Z-Beyoncé-Solange incidents together, only because of how fast TMZ retrieved those elevator videos,” says Iandoli. “Those videos were the heart of those respective stories, considering nothing is more factual than unedited video proof.” In both cases, TMZ was responsible for providing the hard evidence, and erasing any possibility for speculation, which is what all news outlets should aspire to do when investigating stories. Moreover, the effect of the elevator video here was so profound it led to a plethora of Beyonce-Jay-Z divorce rumors, which was huge for one of celebrity’s most notoriously stable/happy couples.

Donald Sterling’s Racist Remarks

Published 4/25/2014 at 10pm

TMZ was the first to report on the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers’ racism, and it quickly became national news. The site obtained and published audio from a private phone conversation Sterling had with then-girlfriend V. Stiviano, in which he told her not to be seen at his games with any black people. TMZ’s coverage led to Sterling being banned from the NBA for life four days later, and fined $2.5 million.

In the Sterling case, TMZ showed just how real their influence in news and investigative journalism is. “The fact that TMZ has become such a widely relied upon source that V. Stiviano was rumored to have handed these tapes over to TMZ herself says a lot,” explains Iandoli.

Justin Bieber’s Deposition

Published 3/10/2014 at 1am

This year Bieber was required to give a deposition after his bodyguard allegedly attacked a photographer, threatening him with a gun. TMZ obtained Bieber’s videotaped deposition and published it in parts, calling the pop star “arrogant,” “contentious,” and “disrespectful.” Each video segment from the deposition has received over one million views, and added to the poor reputation the Biebs has been building for himself over the last two years. “TMZ loves a good Bieber story, so this was merely them oiling the tracks to assist in an already executed train wreck,” says Iandoli.

Wyclef Jean’s Banned “April Showers” Video

Published 5/8/2014 at 12:30pm

When Wyclef Jean’s “April Showers” video was banned by YouTube, TMZ was the first to report the news. The video was banned because of a controversial “autopsy” scene in which Tupac’s autopsy photo was recreated with an impersonator. The breaking news was part of TMZ’s deeper dive into music industry news this year.

Lady Gaga’s Never Released Video for “Do What You Want”

Published 6/19/2014 at 7:55am

Lady Gaga did not release the video for “Do What You Want,” due to controversy surrounding featured artist R. Kelly and video director Terry Richardson. TMZ was able to obtain and release snippets of the video, which feature an unconscious Gaga being “partied on” by R. Kelly and friends, as well as Gaga writhing about naked while Richardson photographs her.

The eventual release of this footage did a lot to hinder the success of Gaga’s most recent album, Artpop. “I can only imagine what it would have been like to have TMZ around when Madonna’s ’Like A Prayer’ video was released,” says Iandoli.

Stephen Collins Confessing Child Molestation

Published 10/7/2014

Arguably TMZ’s biggest “get” this year was audio of the 7th Heaven actor confessing to past child molestation. The audio footage, taped during a therapy session with his wife, brought past allegations to light, and led Collins to publicly admit to sexual abuse, and the police to take further steps to investigate him for the alleged crimes. With Collins, TMZ was pivotal bringing detrimental and illegal behavior to the forefront, which alerted the authorities, showing exactly how powerful their investigative journalism is.