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TMZ’s Harvey Levin: Entertainment Journalism ‘Built on a Lie’ to Protect Celebs

The New Yorker magazine released a bombshell exposé of celebrity gossip empire TMZ on Monday that sheds new light on the organization’s enigmatic founder, Harvey Levin.

While the magazine’s meticulously-researched two-year investigation into TMZ offers up new details about how the outlet operates (like an “intelligence agency” with a “deep network of sources”) and how far it is willing to go for stories (the outlet reportedly paid roughly $100,000 for video footage of Ray Rice’s infamous elevator incident), the piece also offers some surprising insight into the personal worldview of Levin, its founder and managing editor.

From The New Yorker:

“[Levin’s] ‘mission,’ he once said, was ‘not to make celebrities look bad but to make them real.’ To Levin, the O. J. Simpson case offered a glaring example of how differently the law was applied to celebrities and to ordinary citizens.

Levin had witnessed this double standard himself. His father had run a liquor store in Reseda, and in Harvey’s youth it was subjected repeatedly to sting operations by police officers who suspected that minors were being allowed to buy alcohol. At the same time, celebrity-friendly clubs in Hollywood touted their lenient policies with respect to minors. ‘Harvey thought it was so unfair that these clubs would get away with it, just because they were selling to celebrities,’ Gillian Sheldon, the former TMZ publicist, told me.

Levin also disapproved of the way that publicists leveraged access to celebrities in order to control the media coverage of their clients. “The stories that were being told weren’t real,” he said, in a 2009 interview. ‘Producers knew that they weren’t real, but they played ball to get interviews with the stars.’ Most journalism about stars, he said, was ‘built on a lie.’ He set out to infuse celebrity coverage with an investigative ethos by tracking legal filings and court cases…”

Read more from The New Yorker‘s exposé on TMZ here.

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