Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano at a Clippers game. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano at a Clippers game. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Ever since TMZ posted on Friday night its story about the recorded racist remarks of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to V. Stiviano, news outlets had taken to calling those comments “alleged.” That’s an important bit of caution, given how easy it is for people to alter, fabricate and otherwise doctor audio — or anything that bubbles up on the Internet.

Yet Evan Rosenblum, executive producer of TMZ and TMZ Sports, didn’t put much credence in the whole “alleged” thing. “We spent eight days” vetting the tape before publication, “contacting everybody under the sun and doing our due diligence trying to vet this thing. It didn’t go up on the Web site until we were 100 percent sure it was authentic.”

After NBA Commissioner Adam Silver today banned Sterling from the league, those “allegeds” will find their way to a speedy extinction.

TMZ is a Los Angeles-based gossip site that just added a colossal story to its scoop ledger. “This is one of the biggest stories we’ve ever done,” says Rosenblum. Other big TMZ stories include Mel Gibson’s arrest for DUI, the death of Michael Jackson, Michael Richards’s twisted rant and many more. TMZ was founded by Harvey Levin, described on the site as an “American television producer, lawyer, legal analyst and a celebrity reporter.”

Rosenblum wouldn’t divulge details on just how TMZ acquired the Sterling tape, beyond this: “The reason we were able to secure the tape is based purely on fact that we have an experienced news desk that has spent the years building a solid network of sources and contacts, and the fact that we got the tape was the result of those relationships over the years.” The tape, he says, wasn’t a “gift dropped on the doorstep.” A lawyer for Stiviano claims that she didn’t release the material to the media. TMZ declines to comment on that denial.

Does that mean that TMZ didn’t pay for it? Rosenblum: “I can’t comment on an individual situation.” But he does confirm that the site will shell out for information. “If somebody has a video or a photo or something like that, we will pay for it, just the way other organizations pay for stringer footage,” he says.

Since breaking the story, TMZ has continued pounding away at it, posting items on every little hiccup: Reactions from celebrities and NBA types, Stiviano’s strange travels and facemask, Oprah, etc. Today it stumbled a bit in its preview of the sanctions that the NBA was prepping against Sterling.

In any case, the coverage is distinguished both by its comprehensiveness, and its ellipses. Example:


Says Rosenblum about the curiously placed punctuation: “It’s just become part of our style. It’s different and adds to a fun reading experience and punches up the writing for us. It has become our signature style and it drives the grammar heads crazy.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.