Production innovation at TMZ

TMZ app on the iPhone
Recently, I looked at the information gathering of celebrity website and TV show, TMZ. The post drew some interesting comments. Many of them are posted on my Facebook page.

If you’ve got comments, post them to the end of this article. I may have to write another post about the comments received and if its truly a news site that the rest need to pay attention to. Clearly, they are doing something right, even if it is mostly celebrities. But, when you’re the highest paid golfer in the world, your life is a matter of celebrity.

Let’s now look at their TV show now. I don’t watch the show on a regular basis, but when I have seen parts of it, I’m intrigued in the set up of the show. They are taping their morning rundown meeting. Probably one of the most fun parts of a day in any newsroom. You pitch a story, make a joke and move on. TMZ will then see the pitch, run the video and then come back for some newsroom or manager comments and then go back to more parts of the story.

There’s no cheesy anchor, camera moves or over-lit studios, just the newsroom staff doing their job and being videotaped at the same time. Maybe there’s a little mugging going on for the camera, but its low-cost production and gets the job done.

The gathering of news in the field is also impressive. Broadcast Engineering looked at the technical side of the gathering but revealed a couple of interesting tidbits in this article.

This is what is amazing to me. Throw away some traditional multi-person crews. Hello one-man-band with camera, laptop and wifi card.

From the Broadcast Engineering article:

TMZ uses cutting-edge news-gathering techniques to air segments, sometimes within minutes of an event actually happening. A group of young new media professionals serve as producer, camera operator and editor, while adhering to fierce deadlines that lead right up to show time.

These one-man-band shooters, who formerly worked on the Web site, went through several weeks of training on how to use the video equipment. Some currently roam the field using backpacks holding a MacBook laptop and a lightweight Sony Z1U camcorder with camera-mounted Focus Enhancements FireStore hard drive recorders. This enables material to be immediately ingested as a QuickTime file and processed for both TV and the Internet. It also allows the producers to use the HDV tape for backup and as an archive media.

There’s a couple of long-standing news gathering traditions thrown out the window. They get more people in the field, but they get what they pay for in some of the questions from the not-so-well-trained media-gathers. I don’t know if they are journalists or not, but that can be debated at another time.

So I ask you, is TMZ the new-media formula for gathering, displaying and broadcasting their information?


  1. I occaisionally watch TMZ and am not impressed. Their papparazzi photographers are always lurking around somewhere stalking “celebrities” and asking ridiculous questions or just making stupid statements to try to get a reaction from the “celebrity.” A lot of what they cover is completely ridic. NOT news. “We got Joe Blow leaving the dentist.” or they’ll show a clip of someone at the grocery store or the airport. Who cares?
    While I am intrigued with the concept of ‘Backpack Journalism’ I do not think TMZ is the one to emulate. … Just my two cents. 🙂

  2. News is circulating of a “TMZ Sports” service starting up. Thank Tiger Woods, I suppose.

    For decades, sports beat writers have looked the other way when it comes to things said in the locker room, and any stories they overhear being told of the athletes’ exploits. I would assume that TMZ Sports approach would be to go in the opposite direction.

    Will this “sportsarazzi” approach affect how ESPN covers stories? What about how the myriad of former athletes main-stream organizations like the Worldwide Leader and Fox Sports will comment on such revelations from the outside?

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