National Press Club

Levin declares broadcast news delivery ‘stale’ at Club luncheon

October 24, 2011 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver |

Harvey Levin, creator of celebrity news website

Harvey Levin, creator of celebrity news website

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

The news media needs to change the way it delivers content because the decades-old style of broadcast journalism is stale, Harvey Levin, creator of the celebrity news website, told a National Press Club luncheon Oct. 24.

“I think there is a good chance that a lot of people here will be put out of work if the people who run this delivery system don’t change it and don’t change it quickly,” Levin said.

Broadcast journalism doesn’t have to use the same formula devised 40 years ago with an anchor, reporter and a prepared package of sound and video footage, said Levin, executive producer of the entertainment television news magazine TMZ-TV.

“You don’t need the middleman as much any more," Levin said. "That may sound a little bit threatening, but the notion of anchors and reporters that front these stories, I’m not sure if that is as compelling as the people who actually get the stories. They may not look as good perhaps but I don’t think it matters. There are ways of presenting things that can be fundamentally different and fresh, that can convey the same information maybe in a more compelling way or maybe even in a fresher way that can attract an audience.”

Before speaking at the Club, Levin was a guest lecturer at George Washington University. Professors there debated whether to invite him, Levin said, because they didn’t believe he was a journalist.

“I think what some of the professors were missing, and what is so important, is that it is not the subject matter that is covered that is really important. It is how it is covered,” Levin said. “We are a news operation that uses the same skills, the same standards that I used as a working journalist at various news operations. We are extremely aggressive but we figured out a way of doing it where I think the operation is relevant to what is going on today.”

Levin is inculcating in his 100-person staff the idea that trust is “the word between success and failure,” he said.

“We have a lot of sources, and they trust us,” Levin said. “If people trust you and they think you are going to be fair with them, they will come back. But if they don’t trust you, if you do something where they think you have done something that will make me not trust you anymore, it will damage us gravely.”

Levin wants to create a TMZ-DC website focusing on the personality of politics, he said. The website would introduce people outside of the Washington beltway to politics because too much of the political reporting is done for those inside-the-beltway, he said.

Levin couldn’t say when the website would launch because he is busy with TMZ’s Hollywood-based operations, and it would require him to be in D.C. for an extended period of time, he said.