My first experience of TMZ nausea was a year and a half ago, when their big scoop was Tom Brady wearing a walking cast two weeks before he was supposed to play in the Super Bowl. It dominated the sports headlines all that day, before people with actual sports knowledge dismissed it as routine and unimportant. He played in the Super Bowl without issue — that the Patriots lost had nothing to do with his gimpy ankle — and from that moment I always painted TMZ as a news outlet gathering yellow facts and leading people to false conclusions.
Then two months ago I received an e-mail from TMZ saying that a baseball pitcher was killed in a hit-and-run accident. They appeared to be the first ones with this accurate information, which — in this world — is mighty valuable.
Last Thursday, when Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital, every TV station was reporting exactly that ... until TMZ came along proclaiming his death. Everyone on the Internet, as well as some TV stations, were prefixing the announcement of Jackson's death with "TMZ is reporting," which had two effects:
1. It saved the hide of everyone who worked at that news outlet, in case they were passing bad information, and
2. When his death was confirmed, it just may have legitimized TMZ as a news organization in the eyes of several.
The Guardian chronicled the timeline of Jackson's death, at 2:26 p.m., and TMZ's post about his death, timestamped 16 minutes later. Seven minutes after that, the Los Angeles Times went with the story.
The other stories TMZ boasts as watershed scoops include Britney Spears' divorce, Mel Gibson's DUI, and Michael Richards' racist tirade. But this one trumps them all, involving the death of a music icon. It seemed at that moment, TMZ became another bookmark for the editors and producers alike, because the next morning, they became branded with the story about Michael Jackson's demerol shot. So far the police haven't confirmed nor denied this fact, but how doubtful are you?
As a leader of "news that doesn't matter," getting on top of stories like Nick Adenhart and Michael Jackson transcend TMZ past the industry of frivolous stories and just may place them next to guys like CNN and the New York Times if they can keep a full head of steam in motion. Just imagine if their news-gathering cavalry was unleashed on Washington.