According to TMZ editor Harvey Levin, media and entertainment is morphing as we know it, and journalism will be playing an ever-changing role as technology develops. On April 26, the Pollock Theater hosted the University of California, Santa Barbara class of ’72 alumnus at “A Conversation with Harvey Levin: The New Journalistic Environment.” Levin’s talk was part of the 2015 All Gaucho Reunion, where UCSB alumni and students come together and celebrate a number of anniversaries, achievements, and accomplishments.
Levin’s talk reflected off of a controversial statement made at a 2011 National Press Club Luncheon, where he told television and print journalists that mainstream media was changing, and that they should “adapt or die.” He said, as the television and print generation gets older, the media doesn’t draw the attention of younger demographics, leaving them hurt instead of appealing to them. Blending video and print content with the Internet is what will keep people’s interest, and is exactly what TMZ is doing today.
Levin acknowledged the popular perception of TMZ as not a news source, but rather gossipy and somewhat destructive to celebrity lives. In its history, TMZ has broken stories about Michael Jackson’s death, Donald Sterling’s comments on African-Americans attending NBA games, and Solange Knowles’ physical assault of her brother-in-law, Jay-Z. According to Levin, however, he does not aim to bring news to the public in a conventional way.
“We can still do news stories, but we aim to do it in a funny way,” he said. The show is designed to be a complement to the website, which supplies breaking celebrity news.
Throughout his talk and following questions, the Los Angeles native shared a number of anecdotes about law school, working in the TMZ office, and his experiences as a UCSB student. “There was no better time to be at UCSB than when I was here,” Levin quipped. “It was that period where this campus was so politically active. I watched the moon landing wasted on the beach, so there was partying but it was so alive.”
In the program provided by the Carsey-Wolf Center, which sponsored this event, Levin is named as “a television producer, lawyer, legal analysis, and celebrity reporter. Levin received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of California Santa Barbara, and his J.D. from the University of Chicago.” Levin currently serves as the editor of TMZ, and stated during his talk that he plans to produce two news and game shows in the future.
Levin shared some advice for young professionals towards the end of his talk. According to him, people focus far too much on following tradition, and that leaves them scared of the future. People find themselves too comfortable in what they have done, yet at the same time, are looking for a way to progress and make a difference.
“This whole idea that you do it because it’s been done before, that just doesn’t work,” he said. “Just because things were done a certain way, and even if you’re taught that this is the way things are done, that doesn’t mean time is frozen. If I can give any advice to young people who are here, don’t buy it. Listen, understand the conventions, but don’t feel that you are bound by them if there are better ways.”