I think the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley has done the right thing by inviting Harvey Levin to speak to students.
Levin is the founder of TMZ, the online celebrity gossip site. (There is also a television show based on TMZ, which is owned by Warner Bros.) Levin spoke at the school yesterday, as part of an ongoing lecture series by media movers and shakers. He is essentially a gossip monger who isn't particularly interested in fine writing or the news standards traditionally taught at J-schools, so the announcement that he would be addressing students at a well-regarded J-school can be seen as shocking--or simply a sign of the times. And I for one welcome it. (By the way, many many many years ago I attended the J-school at Cal, so I'm speaking about my alma mater here.)
Levin has been called the "king of the paparazzi," and I have long thought that the paparazzi should be given credit as journalists who record history of a particular kind. One of TMZ's biggest scoops recently occurred when it got hold of pictures of the bruised face of singer Rhianna after she'd been beaten by boyfriend Chris Brown. TMZ has also recently broken stories about a Chicago bank that used federal bailout money to host an extravagant golf outing in Los Angeles.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one Cal student asked Levin if that meant TMZ would be covering "more serious stories."
To his credit, Levin replied that he thought the Rhianna pictures were serious and important in there own right.--David Schonauer