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In the words of a former staffer, “We built a brand that turned into a monster that can run on its own.” It’s a well-oiled, money-making, gossip-generating machine.

But has it compromised the mission that set it apart from the rest of the gossip industry?

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As to what goes up on the site and what stays vaulted, that’s a finer, more esoteric calculus — and one in which celebrities and their publicists have come to live in fear.As one source explained, “There’s no doubt: [Harvey] Levin absolutely changed the way celebrities function today.”TMZ has been responsible for breaking the biggest celebrity scandals of the last 10 years: effectively ending a 30-year career (Mel Gibson), tarnishing golf’s most sacred idol (Tiger Woods), and puncturing the pristine image of celebrity royalty (Solange Knowles attacking Jay Z).But there’s a third TMZ mode, one that neither the tour nor the TMZ syndicated program can truly translate.It’s this mode that distinguishes TMZ from all other celebrity news sites — what gives it teeth or, more precisely, bite.Check out Free Ones Live for some of the hottest cam girls and great credit discounts, or pick out another great cam site!

For just , you can purchase a guaranteed front-of-the-bus seat on the TMZ NYC Tour.But it’s also that mode that some have claimed is responsible for acquiring a video of Justin Bieber telling a racist joke and, over the course of four years, not publishing it.Buzz Feed spoke to nearly two dozen former TMZ employees, and it’s clear that Bieber’s tape was not the only near-priceless piece of dirt in the proverbial TMZ vault.But it’s not just celebs: In 2009, it caught a bank spending millions of taxpayer bailout funds on a lavish party (Northern Trust), and, via spin-off TMZSports, instigated the billion sale of an NBA team by applying the same surveillance to a racist owner (Donald Sterling) once reserved for the Hollywood stars and socialites.Before TMZ, the gossip landscape was predominantly characterized by what those in the industry call “blow job news” — tidbits and sound bites that flatter the egos and images of celebrities. It trades in scandal, and revels in exposing the narrative for what it is: a story as fictional as the films and television shows in which these stars appear.And even if that status is less certain today, TMZ has been the most influential and important media organization of the last decade. But TMZ’s remarkable success and reputation have come at a price, as the demand to acquire and “own” scoops while simultaneously catering to a demographic of untraditional (read: straight male) gossip consumers has transformed a rag-tag group of reporters invested in illuminating Hollywood hypocrisy into a cabal of ruthless, click-hungry, and aggressive TMZers with little journalistic training and a tolerance of misogyny, both within the workplace and on the site and television show.