When Harvey Levin spoke last spring to students at the University of California, Santa Barbara, his half-hour presentation was titled “The New Journalistic Environment.” This weekend, to frame Nicholas Schmidle’s long-awaited look at the inner workings of TMZ, the editors of The New Yorker preferred “The Digital Dirt.”
Schmidle was among those in attendance at UCSB on Saturday, April 25. Rather comically, when the reporter introduced himself to Levin, the TMZ head honcho expressed displeasure at Schmidle’s tactics for The New Yorker story, maneuvers which on a scale of one to TMZ rate about a “4.” There was also during the Q&A a question from a student about how TMZ obtained video the spring before of Solange Knowles tussling in a New York hotel elevator with Jay Z and Beyoncé.
Levin cited journalistic confidentiality. Elsewhere in the Schmidle article, there is a meeting of the old and new celebrity gossip outlets. According to Page Six, TMZ paid $250,000 for the video, a huge sum. But here’s what Schmidle writes:
According to a former TMZ employee knowledgeable about the deal, the price was closer to five thousand dollars.
Not only is that a huge discrepancy, but it frames very differently the idea of an employee losing their job for having leaked the video to TMZ. The $5,000 also falls more in line with many of the other TMZ purchase prices mentioned in the piece.
For a Tupac Shakur sex tape, according to regular TMZ source Kevin Blatt, the price was $8,000. On another occasion, TMZ paid Blatt $750 plus hotel expenses for some V. Stiviano footage. And according to Schmidle, when a tipster phoned in and left a message saying they had footage of Drake spreading his wealth at a D.C. strip club, they asked for $5,000.
Though TMZ does not officially comment on these sorts of matters, they told Schmidle that the $15,000 a former TMZ photographer said was the price for some other famous elevator video involving Ray Rice was “overblown.” No comment from TMZ in the article regarding Schmidle’s claim that for the second, full video of Rice and Janay Palmer’s elevator altercation, TMZ ponied up around $90,000.
Certainly, $5,000 is a figure that resonates throughout The New Yorker piece. When Levin drove over to the workplace of a man who originally owned the domain tmz.com, that’s the amount he wrote the check for, according to former AOL executive Jeff Rowe.
P.S. The Post today is standing by the above-cited May 15, 2014 Page Six story.