Our report last week about the record-breaking August numbers for LATimes.com included the rather remarkable stat of 3.5 million page views registered by the relatively new blog “Ministry of Gossip.” So we thought we’d check in with Christie D’Zurilla (pictured), the USC print journalism and chemistry major (!) who runs the site. She began her career at the Orange County Register before landing at the Times feature-entertainment copy desk in 2003.
“When we started the blog from scratch, the idea of hitting a million monthly page views seemed outrageous,” D’Zurilla tells FishbowlLA via email, “until we did it the first full month out of the gate (thanks, Tiger Woods and Adam Lambert). One of the coolest things about our August numbers and what they represent is that our readers came for a variety of stories across the board, rather than spiking on some huge scandal that broke on a holiday weekend.”
D’Zurilla, who shares the Ministry page with fellow blogger Matt Donnelly, references one of his recent items as an example of the fringe benefits that come with increased traffic. “I was the first person to hunt down and interview the Old Spice Guy, Isaiah Mustafa, in February 2010. Back then, it took eight days before anyone found the story and picked it up–even counting our LAT compadres.”
“Contrast that with what happened during the most recent Primetime Emmys, when Matt got Aaron Sorkin to explain how he broke his nose. His dish was picked up within hours.”
Despite the fact that “gossip” is in the name of her blog, D’Zurilla says it’s really much more about reliable celebrity news, parties and red carpet coverage. The cheesecake is strictly a side dish. “Alas,” she jokes, “‘Ministry of Accurate News About Famous, Gorgeous, Ridiculous or Frequently Arrested People’ doesn’t have the same zip as ‘Ministry of Gossip.'”
Being anchored to the vast repository of LATimes.com resources offers other advantages. For example, during the Miley Cyrus bong-smoking scandal, D’Zurilla was able to quickly pull relevant information about salvia from the Health section. Still, she says today’s common language of celebrity news can easily be taken for granted.
“If you give it a chance, you might find that an exchange about a star’s bad behavior can turn into a larger discussion of ethics, morals, economics and the like,” she says. “Or you might just enjoy staring at the pictures and reading about the babies, and that’s OK too.”
Asked to identify some valued go-to sources of information, D’Zurilla says she has unfortunately had to learn to trust no one. That, and occasionally remind herself never to let anyone get a picture of her naked.