Is TMZ less credible than CNN?

This afternoon, in my workplace and on Facebook, friends and I spent about an hour wondering whether we could believe TMZ’s reports of Michael Jackson’s death. “Since when TMZ is a reliable source?!?” asked a friend on Facebook. “Since when are other news sites reliable sources?” responded another friend. “Excuse me, i have to get back to watching CNN, they are quoting some facebook pages and twitterstreams on the news.”

Was it just denial that kept us from mourning until CNN (finally) chimed in? Are we prejudiced against TMZ because of the vacuity of its coverage and employ of pappaazzi? Several thoughtful responses came in to my Twitter query along those lines. (@dansinker raised a related point.) Mark Glaser, @mediatwit, anwered that ours suspicion “Shows that we have *varying* levels of trust for random tweets, TMZ, Drudge, LAT blog, AP and CNN (possibly in that order).” Erik Hersman, @whiteafrican surmised that such skepticism is “probably just hardwired into US ppl that way…I think non US ppl are more skeptical of MSM period.” Mike Janseen, @mjanssen, emphasized that that traiditonal journalism’s “sourcing lends more credibility. Without it we’re denied a way to assess the context of the information presented.”

Wikipedia, for one, has a section on TMZ critcism full of questionable ethical practices, but I nothing about inaccurate reporting. When it comes to celebrity reporting, is there any reason–  other than snobbery and disdain for pappaazzi publications– to disbelieve the gossip sites while waiting for traditional journalism organizations to pipe in?

PS, three top Michael Jackson links of the evening:

  • Dan O’Neill’s Appreciation of Michael Jackson: “I fully believe, with my entire heart, that Jesus Christ Himself came down from heaven in 1982 and sat next to a man named Michael Jackson while he wrote a record called Thriller.”
  • Andrew Sullivan’s obit: “There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child.”
  • At our Michael memorial dinner, one of my hosts and my wife lamented the absence of his music in the media coverage and Facebook chatter. Enter, thanks to a tip from Dan Sinker, a live tribute mix from Maseo of De La Soul. (A capella Billie Jean, insane.)
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5 thoughts on “Is TMZ less credible than CNN?

  1. Pingback: links for 2009-06-26 « A little Jack with that?

  2. Were you stunned when CNN quoted TMZ, US Weekly and Inside Edition last night as sources?

    TMZ may get scoop but it seems TMZ is for sale. They falsely reported that Britney Spears got more custody and visitation this summer. Mark Vincent Kaplan, attorney for K-Fed, provided an interview to E! on the same day denying the story and making it clear that Britney has zero custody.

    Had the NY Times falsely reported, they would have issued a retraction of the information and likely apologized. TMZ did not retract anything and the story became international — the public perceived that the conservatorship over Spears was positive as afterall, she was getting custody and visitation.

    The conservatorship was being scrutinized for extending tour dates in Europe and in the U.S. AEG is part of that scrutiny for those observing the case.

    It’s an example that TMZ is open to favors.

  3. Pingback: PDA’s Newsbucket | Richard Hartley

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