Friday, June 26th, 2009
20

TMZ and Michael Jackson: The World Won't Listen

TMZ SAY RELAXNot only will we not be able to see Sasha Baron Cohen's "interview" with Latoya Jackson in Bruno, and not only will we never find out what "stage move" he was feverishly creating "to succeed his famous 'moonwalk,'" (crueler Awl staffers than I suggest "the Demerol flop"), there are other, sadder concerns. Like, when will America learn to respect TMZ?

A reader writes!

You know what's funny is how everyone was all like "oh it's TMZ so we don't believe it." But TMZ broke it and had the story right from the get-go, while LA Times had it wrong initially and no one faults them. If TMZ said "coma, not dead" everyone would get all mad and be like "they suck." Instead, everyone's all like "oh see the LA Times says it's true so he is really dead!"

Well, I don't agree that the LA Times had it "wrong." They had what they could confirm. (By that logic, everyone else was at that time much wronger!) But otherwise: quite so! Here are some screenshots of the news as it slowly-actually, very quickly, really!-evolved yesterday evening (or afternoon, if you were on west coast time: all times below are EST).

TM to the Z5:20 p.m.

La DrudgeAs of 6:19 p.m., Drudge was still hedging, going with "REPORT." While updating the top left with "LA TIMES: MICHAEL JACKSON IN A COMA…."

LATAn LA Times story today says that this headline was already up at 5:51 pm, but that is not what we saw looking at their website. (Nor is it obviously what Drudge saw.) As late as 6:20, we were still seeing something like "Michael Jackson rushed to hospital/in a coma," on front and inside pages. (It should be noted that their servers were getting hammered (as were Twitter and AOL's servers!), and so things pushed through may not have appeared immediately online. Clarifications welcome!)

At 6:26 p.m., CNN, citing the LA Times, pronounced Michael Jackson dead.

NYT has a sadIn any event, at 6:33 p.m., the New York Times was fronting this. Which: ouch.

At 9:23 p.m., the television critic of the LA Times was perhaps the first person at a non-blog publication to write this true fact: "Folks at CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and other outlets refused to acknowledge that it was TMZ that first reported the superstar's death because, presumably, TMZ is a gossip website and that's just tacky."

(Disclosure: I have tried to stick to observable facts above, as I have a life-long favorable bias towards the LA Times, in part because it was my hometown paper growing up and in part because they pay me to contribute to the paper, unlike everyone else in this world.)

20 Comments / Post A Comment

KarenUhOh (#19)

I'm curious what/who TMZ's source was, but imagine random paparrazzi were likely camped at the house half-asleep when sirens started wailing.

I was in the car when this hit, and CBS Radio picked up the TMZ reports pretty much from the jump. By 5:05 EDT they were running the "to the hospital" report, followed quick by the CA reports. Of course, nobody outside TMZ wanted to use the D-word till around 5:45. But CBS, and, the L.A. Times, were quick to report the reports.

Meanwhile, Wolf Blitzer wasn't snapped out of his own coma until past 5:30 to report that anything was going on; over on Fox, Glenn Beck was allowed to drone on, presumably with his doll collection, until Shep Smith Shoved him out of his seat at 6 with mournful, ashen tones of iconic loss.

TMZ will also run stories based on crapshoot-reliability-level sources and hope for the best. If they are wrong and have to say "Ooops, mea culpa," it is, after all, just an uber-trashy gossip site.

My money says they got a text message or phone tip from one of the hospital employees or EMTs and decided to run with it, while others waited for official word.

It is usually a hospital employee.

KarenUhOh (#19)

It is fair to even money he was dead before they left the house, if he collapsed in full-on CA.

katiebakes (#32)

The National Enquirer feels TMZ's pain, man.

brianvan (#149)

You know, from here out, when TMZ leads with something an hour ahead of everyone else, we now know they must be right. Because they always have been right. And you know what? They're the ones with the funding and the resources to get it right first. And if its a celebrity-related item, they will get it right, first, always.

These newspapers are already hobbled operations, you think they're dumping money into the celebrity hunt the way that TMZ is? Nope. That's why this all makes sense to me.

um, they were very wrong about snoop dogg's wife dying a few months back, a report which they based on an obvious crank call to 911 and which they never corrected. do some research before you make broad "up the internet" claims!

Patrick M (#404)

Similarly, I believe it was not actually the case that Dewey defeated Truman

I don't believe anything until I read it on Drudge. Then I feel guilty and refresh the nyt homepage five times to atone.

I emailed a friend the text of the "Michael Jackson is dead" story from the LA Times at 6:15 yesterday, just shortly after it went up (apparently later, they decided to clarify that it was Pop Icon Michael Jackson). With the server overload, their claim may well be accurate.

That makes sense. I was getting CRAZY errors and style sheets from the LAT for much of that whole hour. So server-pounding makes sense.

Ok, but, is he STILL dead?

Alex Pareene (#278)

jackson was not actually officially pronounced dead at 2:26 pm PDT, for whatever that is worth.

CNN was the last hold out. They said they were waiting for the official confirmation from the hospital. Which might be that they (UCLA) wanted to notify all the family first.

Alex Pareene (#278)

i mean not UNTIL 2:26 pm PDT, whoops.

atipofthehat (#797)

You all are so naive. Think of all the free publicity MJ has gleaned from this death stunt.

Look for him to emerge next week as the Jewel-gloved New Leader of Iran.

Patrick M (#404)

Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this comment in no way endorses a belief in the occult.

ValerieFlame (#150)

Many papers, though, proclaimed the death sourcing TMZ – something I don't know if I've seen before. Reporting a rumor by sourcing the potentially untrustworthy publication? Gets you off the hook, I suppose, if that source is wrong.

I think this broke a certain barrier for papers that might have normally waited for their own reporters – or AP, CNN, etc – to confirm something. You didn't see papers doing this with the Edwards love child story, for example.

Why did papers go with the story backed by TMZ's source?

SEO. You want to be first and get the keywords up there with a picture. The positives of that outweigh the negatives of sourcing TMZ, so the thought goes now.

NicFit (#616)

Woah, you grew up in LA? Did you go to Uni? Pali?

missdelite (#625)

So Goldblum's still alive?

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