Gossip blogs, tabloids, and media personalities are easily roped in with professional journalists, causing confusion for readers.
The fine line between modern day yellow journalism and professional journalism blurs as social media blogs are pushed to the forefront of breaking news.
Yellow journalism has evolved from its beginnings as a contentious battle between Joseph Pulitzer and William Hearst to the social media gossip blogs that we know today. Pulitzer and Hearst would publish stories with salacious headlines, regardless of if they were accurate.
Social media blogs, like TMZ and The Shade Room, run on the same concept. Not only do they write misleading headlines, but their stories are not fully accurate. A 2013 Elite Daily article lists 10 times that TMZ wrote false or misleading headlines. For one, TMZ falsely reported that Miley Cyrus died in a car accident in 2008.
In a more recent instance, TMZ misrepresented Teyana Taylor’s response regarding the 2021 Astroworld tragedy. According to WBLS, a radio station based in New York City, TMZ spoke with the singer outside of the Los Angeles International Airport.
She notes that there were videos of Travis Scott stopping the show. Due to the huge shows that Travis Scott performs, it’d be hard for him to see everyone. She says that everyone involved with such shows, including the artist, should take the proper precautions to keep everyone safe.
TMZ published a story with the headline: “Teyana Taylor defends Travis Scott, says artists alone can’t be responsible for fan safety.”
Another instance of rumor reporting comes from Hollywood Unlocked. The gossip site reported Queen Elizabeth’s death before it was confirmed by Buckingham Palace.
Hollywood Unlocked claimed they received the news from a source from the royal family itself. As someone who actively follows Hollywood Unlocked, it’s hard to believe that Hollywood Unlocked has a source within Buckingham Palace.
The popularity of gossip blogs allows for them to have a similar place in media as news publications like NBC and ABC News. It’s getting to the point where social media users not only question the legitimacy of gossip blogs, but they question news organizations and journalists. It does not help whenever professional journalists inaccurately report on a big story.
A prime example is the reporting on Kobe Bryant’s death. On the fateful day, TMZ was the first to report the athlete’s death. When TMZ’s article hit the internet, other news organizations scrambled to confirm the story. The Federal Aviation Administration tweeted details of the crash, noting that five people were aboard the helicopter — a piece of information from local authorities.
Here’s where things get interesting: Matt Gutman of ABC News falsely reported that four of Bryant’s children were in the helicopter. He reported that one of the victims was a newborn. Gutman issued an apology on Twitter along with an on-air correction.
The correction did not help as WPLG Local 1o News in Fort Lauderdale, FL tweeted the information, though they did not directly cite ABC News; others sharing the information cited ABC News. Amid the noise of the rumor mill, Rick Fox, a former NBA player, was reported to be on the helicopter as well. This was when people realized things were not adding up and people became skeptical.
News organizations are not perfect, but with the rise of gossip blogs, it can be hard for readers to cut through the noise. Readers and social media users tend to lump reputable news organizations and gossip blogs into one huge group. Many question the legitimacy of journalism.