Gossip juggernaut TMZ has its own secrets

TMZ broke news of Michael Jackson's death in 2009. In this, and many other instances, more mainstream media outlets grudgingly followed. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

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Celebrity historian Anne Helen Petersen joins guest host Stephen Quinn to discuss her recent long-form Buzzfeed article The Down and Dirty History of TMZ. In it, she explains how the media outlet's managing editor Harvey Levin altered the way celebrity news is treated, spread and consumed. 

The celebrity gossip site has become a multi-million dollar enterprise -- the only outlet of its kind with a TV show, a bus tour, and a reserved computer at the Los Angeles county courthouse. 

Gossip for the guys 

Petersen notes that one of the site's distinguishing features is its popularity with both men and women. Their audience is roughly 40 per cent male, she says -- which is "remarkable" when one considers that outlets like Us Weekly and People have an overwhelmingly female following.

"They've definitely tried to masculinize gossip and make it into something that men shouldn't feel ashamed, or even think of it as gossip," she tells Stephen, adding that their branding steers clear of words like "gossip" and "celebrity" in the title anywhere.

TMZ's top stories 

With its unique and controversial mix of investigative journalism and scandal mongering, TMZ has blown open the biggest celebrity scandals of the last 10 years. Here's a list of a few of their stories that made waves around the world: 


Hear the full interview by clicking on the listen button above.
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Lawyer-turned-editor Harvey Levin blazed a new trail in the world of celebrity gossip. (Chris Polk/AP)

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