For those interested in the machinations of the gossip industry, take a few minutes and read Anne Helen Peterson's lengthy Buzzfeed story about the birth of sleaze mongering site TMZ and how it became a powerhouse that has built an empire on terrorizing celebrities with little regard for journalistic integrity. (Though in some regards they show far more integrity than their magazine based competitors.) Peterson's investigative report recounts founder Harvey Levin's "secret vault" which allegedly houses a number of scandalous videos and photos of celebrities that the organization allegedly uses to gain access to these same people. For example, it was revealed recently that Justin Bieber's video of a racist joke he made when he was 15-years-old was one of the items that was stored away for such a rainy day.
TMZ happily admits they're willing to pay for interviews and scandalous videos, as in this instance regarding Seinfeld's Michael Richards and his famous n-word laced comedy club rant:
In November 2006, for example, a source came forward with the recording of the Michael Richards racist comedy routine. The source wanted several thousand dollars for the tape, and TMZ would pay it, but the source wanted the cash immediately — as in before-the-banks-opened immediately. Levin couldn’t write a personal check and allow the money to be traced back to him, and he, like everyone else, had a limit on the amount of cash he could take out in a single day from the ATM. His solution, according to multiple staffers working for the site at the time: Call every TMZ staffer and force them to immediately take out their ATM max and bring it down to the TMZ offices. The staffers were reimbursed, but the story highlights just what lengths TMZ was willing to go to obtain — and pay — a source.
It's an illuminating article, and if you want to be creeped out by the machinations of Hollywood—read the whole thing.