July 24, 2009
When pop singer Michael Jackson died unexpectedly at the end of June news organizations all over the world frantically tried to keep up with the story. What was noteworthy, and what will surely be a historical footnote to Jackson’s death, is that mainstream media such as newspapers and cable news networks were not the outlets breaking the story. That privilege belonged to the upstart celebrity news site TMZ.com. Before it broke the Jackson story, TMZ was primarily thought of as an online version of the National Enquirer and was better known for running stories about Christian Bale’s profanity laden temper tantrums.
However Stephen Brook, a press correspondent for London’s Guardian newspaper and deputy editor MediaGuardian, believes that it is precisely the salacious content TMZ has a reputation for running that gives the site its power. Less than 24 hours after the event, Brook wrote an article for the Guardian which detailed how TMZ managed to be the first media outlet to correctly report the story of Jackson’s death, possibly six minutes before he was officially pronounced dead. Brook’s article was reprinted all over the world in dozens of newspapers and websites.
In this special episode of Showbiz Sandbox, Brook explains how he put the story together and discusses some of the highlights from his piece. Read more