In a delicious instance of the empire striking back, the New Yorker is finishing up a exposé of TMZ’s inner workings, reports the Hollywood Reporter.

Written by Nicholas Schmidle, a staff writer who’s published a virtual tome on political turmoil in Pakistan, the yearlong endeavor supposedly has TMZ founder Harvey Levin rightly shook, and he’s said to be telling current and former TMZ employees not to speak with The New Yorker. If even a fraction of this is true, this story’s set up to be one of the storied publications’ juicier pieces in awhile: the most respected long-form publication in the US, with one of the most rigorous fact-checking departments, sending a war reporter who investigated the night bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad to work on a piece about the country’s most sensational—and often news-breaking—gossip source? Yes, please, and make sure there’s a podcast to go along with it.

Most interestingly, Hollywood Reporter seems to speculate that such a piece would potentially reveal exactly how much the high-grossing website pays sources for leaking celebrities’ personal info:

Levin and TMZ are not often discussed on Time Warner earnings calls, but by most accounts the outlet is said to make tens of millions of dollars for Warner Bros. each year, mostly from the syndicated TMZ newsmagazine television show, which Levin hosts. The former lawyer’s ability to procure court documents, celebrity death and divorce news, sex videos and other unflattering tidbits have led to speculation — especially in L.A.’s legal community, which often grapples with TMZ — that the outlet is paying sources handsomely.

It’s unclear whether Schmidle’s reporting has turned up unsavory (or illegal) tactics used by Levin or TMZ, but sources say Warner Bros. is anxiously awaiting a call from the magazine’s fact-checkers.

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All of which is very interesting, but even more interesting to know would be how many of TMZ’s sources are not paid, and just happen to be the press reps, agents, or blood relatives of the celebrities they’re supposedly selling out. Also: can the New Yorker find out if Ben Affleck really cheated with the nanny? If so, thanks for that; it’s one of the pressing issues of the day. Maybe Jon Lee Anderson can write a Talk of the Town.

Neither TMZ nor the New Yorker had comment for THR, but if it’s true, the circle is complete, and everyone on earth is a potential source.


Contact the author at julianne@jezebel.com.

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