TV programs such as TMZ Live that focus on celebrity gossips are popular because they satisfy our curiosity to know what happens in the lives of the stars we see on TV. However, if we take a while to consider what value, if any, they add to our lives, we may watch them less often. TMZ, (an acronym for Thirty Mile Zone which refers to the thirty-mile radius in Los Angeles where many studios are located), a news outlet founded in 2005, is known for breaking big celebrity news. It is credited with breaking the news of Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 hours before the more conservative and traditional news networks did. TMZ has established itself as the go-to company for all news concerning celebrities. The problem however is that lately TMZ seems to focus more on the bad than the good.
Within the last year, TMZ published incriminatory video or audio recordings of Lamar Odom, Donald Sterling and just some days ago, Ray Rice, and as a result, a marriage ended, an NBA franchisee lost his team and an NFL player lost his career respectively. TMZ also released an elevator video recording showing Jay-Z being hit by Solange, his sister-in-law and that led to months of speculation that Jay-Z’s marriage with Beyonce was over. While these are newsworthy events, it’s worrisome that in each of these cases, some privacy was violated. These celebrities were caught in their worst moments in places they had reasonable expectation of privacy, yet they have been subjected to public ridicule and criticized by some of us who may be worse than they are but are lucky to not have had our dirty laundry aired. However, given how much money that is increasingly being paid to sellouts who release these videos, everybody is a potential victim. While publishing these stories often start conversations on certain social issues including racism, domestic abuse and fidelity in marriage, it is doubtful social change is TMZ’s motive for publishing these stories. Otherwise, what purpose did publishing the Solange-Jay-Z video serve? And after Rice had been suspended for two games and the issue of domestic violence addressed, even if inadequately, why did TMZ publish a video they knew was going to cause harm to even the victim?
We have all had moments, however fleeting, in our lives that if made public, we would not be proud of. How many of us, even though we know the proper place to break the wind is in the restroom, have done it when alone in a closed room in the hope that the air clears before somebody else walks in? Don’t we all have our dirty laundry? Ray Rice’s wife Instagram post following the publication of the video articulated the point eloquently. She wrote: “I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself. No one knows the pain that the media and unwanted options from the public has caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass of for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific. THIS IS OUR LIFE! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow and show the world what real love is…!” Her post goes to show that news outlets, like TMZ who allow ratings, traffic and fame, rather than conscience, to dictate their business practices harm people and families and so shouldn’t be promoted.
Moreover, I have always found it awkward watching TMZ founder (whose name I won’t mention), a former attorney in his sixties, dish graphic gossips, on national TV, of young celebrities who could pass for his grandchildren. I also found while writing this article that TMZ also played a role in 2009 in exposing Tiger Wood’s infidelity. How do people whose day job is digging dirt on celebrities to find news that can lead to demise of marriages and careers sleep at night? Could the pressure on celebrities to be perfect be the reason Hollywood has a high suicide rate?
If we, as a society, agree that there is something wrong about a news agency focusing only in reporting the ills and mistakes of others, then there are things we can do to thwart the success of their business venture. We can start by boycotting their TV shows and websites so as to tank their business. Second, people who take advantage of their job positions to release videos of patrons visiting their employers’ businesses should be adequately punished, not rewarded. That is the only way to deter employees from violating their employers’ privacy policies. For example, the hotel staff who released the Solange-Jayz video was reportedly merely fired from his job whereas TMZ paid him $250,000 for leaking the video. Obviously, he gained more than he lost. If he were prosecuted however, it would deter future sellouts since whatever money they are paid for violating the trust reposed on them would be expended in legal fees for their defense.
On a personal note, I like to keep in mind what someone always tells me, that ‘Influence doesn’t ring a bell’. Watching TMZ, one would think that every celebrity cheats on their spouse or drives under the influence since those are the sort of things they get to report. And by watching it, one feeds one’s senses with negativities which imperceptibly reduces one’s moral standards. But the truth is that many of these celebrities are good role models, responsible family men and women who deeply care about others and are often committed to several charities. I recommend we patronize news agencies who focus on and extol these virtues because they somehow make us conform our behaviors to high moral standards.
Finally, let me make it clear that I do not support the vices the celebrities in this post were caught in, not racism, and definitely, not solanging (am verbing now). And in this age, if one doesn’t conform one’s conduct to acceptable moral standards, for its sake or for religious conviction, then they should for this reason-there aren’t just human eyes and ears watching, there are now digital ones. Yes, it doesn’t matter if the said conduct is done in the dark or even in Vegas where they claim that everything that happens there stays there.
PS: On feeding the senses with things that are edifying, I find that listening to christian songs while in the car calms my nerves while tragic news about Ebola, ISIS and Boko Haram, only frays them. For those in the LA area, I highly recommend 95.9FM The Fish.