Sports Stars Watch Out: TMZ Sports Is On The Way

Spin-off site to launch first half of next year
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TMZ-the
Web site that's become known for breaking every major story of celebrity
scandal, hardship and death-plans to launch TMZ Sports in the first half of
2010, said Harvey Levin, the site's executive producer and creator.

"There's
a lot of agenda reporting in sports because so many of the media outlets get
access and rely on getting that access. We're not going to do a scandal sports
Web site, but we can provide more authentic representations of celebrities.
We're just looking to do authentic portrayals," says Levin. Word of TMZ Sports
was first reported by the New York Times' Media Decoder blog.

TMZ's
reporters and producers routinely dig up information on sports stars that they don't
even use because it doesn't fit TMZ's brand. Needing a place to put those extra
stories is what convinced Levin to launch the site.

Where
TMZ Sports will live in relation to TMZ and how it will be used in conjunction
with TMZ.com and TMZ, the TV show, remains to be seen, says Levin.

"This
will be separately branded and it will live separately from TMZ, but we don't
know exactly how," says Levin. "You don't plan a year ahead when you are
launching something because you've got to be flexible enough to make twists and
turns along the road."

There
are currently no plans to turn TMZ Sports into a TV show. "When we launched TMZ
I had no aspirations of making this into a TV show. I don't think I had a
second to think about anything other than the Web site during our first year.
It was so incredibly all-consuming," says Levin. "The same thing will be true
with sports. The key here is to make TMZ Sports good and right. I'm not going
to spend one second thinking about how to extend it at this point."

Reporters
and producers will be hired in Los Angeles
and all over the country. "I don't know how many people we are going to hire,
but I already have people on staff that live and breathe sports and know the
voice of TMZ. It's all in finding people with the right skill set. If they have
that, they are going to be able to do this. Casting is crucial."

Since
its November 2005 launch, TMZ has made a name for itself as the place that
breaks celebrity news. Most recently, TMZ broke the story that actress Brittany
Murphy had died. The site also has been all over two of this year's biggest
celebrity stories: Tiger Woods' Thanksgiving eve fight with his wife, Elin,
which led to revelations that the golf star had been having affairs with many
women, and Charlie Sheen's Christmas morning arrest in Aspen,
Colo., on felony and misdemeanor charges of
domestic abuse. TMZ also has been way out in front with stories such as Michael
Jackson's death, Mel Gibson's drunk-driving arrest and Rihanna's assault at the
hands of her now ex, rapper Chris Brown.

TMZ
is routinely accused of paying for stories, to which Levin responds: "We do
occasionally pay for tips, but rarely. If someone calls us up and says ‘I'm a
stringer and I have a lawsuit you'd be interested in. I want a fee to direct
you,' we'll pay for that but then we'll also independently verify the
information.

"We
do pay for photos and videos but everybody pays for those things. If you are
acquiring a photo from a stringer, of course he wants to be paid.

"We
never pay for an interview. That gives people incentive to embellish or lie.
People who pay for interviews violate the basic tenets of journalism. A picture
is objective. An interview is very subjective."

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