Gossip Cop’s trade is gossip about gossip. As if that wasn’t meta enough, Lewittes uses gossip reporting techniques to verify the work of gossip reporters.
As an example, here’s the site’s commentary about a recent In Touch story on Britney Spears:
In Touch alleges that dad Jamie Spears and boyfriend Jason Trawick have been “working behind her back to revamp her image,” part of a “secret plan” that included the careful orchestration of her August trip with Trawick to Hawaii.
According to one of the tabloid’s “insiders,” the pop star was incensed after supposedly learning that her dad and boyfriend “tipped off photographers” during the vacation.
And here’s how the site knocks down that rumor:
A source close to Spears tells Gossip Cop that the conspiracy theory is “b.s.”
So how can we know that Gossip Cop’s “source” is better than In Touch’s “Insiders”? (If we go by sheer numbers, there seem to be more insiders than sources…) Lewittes said the difference is that he has better sources—even if these sources often end up being unnamed in the site’s reports.
“You’d be surprised how many contacts and insiders you can create over nearly two decades,” he said. “Now, when there’s a story involving a celebrity, I have three or four different angles to get to that person and the truth of the story.”
But as even the most casual reader of Page Six and the like knows, the stars’ reps lie to the press all the time. How can you know when you’re not getting hosed by a rep who’s been ordered to cover something up, or at least lead people astray until an agreed-upon exclusive can be doled out? Lewittes said the role that he and his site can play in helping knock down erroneous gossip causes key sources deal with him straight up.
“Once we got burned by subject of the story who on the record told us she was not pregnant and then the next day [told] Extra or Entertainment Tonight that she was pregnant,” he said. “So we came back to readers and we said, ‘Look we quoted her and she lied to us.’”
As for the celeb weeklies, Lewittes said some will knowingly print false information, or at the very least omit details that soften the impact of a story.
“I think that it’s probably ingrained more at some outlets that if you’re going to do story you have to call all parties involved and if you get answers from all you have to include them,” he said. “I’ve heard from a number people who called me afterwards who said, ‘I told them it wasn’t true and they went with it anyway.’ ”
It’s a strange game. Inaccurate stories are used to drive newsstand sales, and are then repeated by reams of websites and perhaps that night’s episode of Access Hollywood and the like. At the same time, the information proves invaluable fodder for a site like Gossip Cop that calls out the inaccuracy, setting off another cycle. Everything feeds the beast, regardless of veracity.
“People need to attract viewers and sell magazines, so sometimes being outrageous is better than being accurate,” Lewittes said.
That’s enough to keep a gossip cop on the beat for a long time.
Correction of the Week
“Singer Neil Young was born Nov. 12, 1945, and singer Eric Clapton was born March 30, 1945. The Short List events calendar in Friday’s Weekend Journal transposed their birthdates. In addition, the listing erred by identifying Mr. Young as a former heroin user; the Journal has no reporting to support that Mr. Young used the drug.” – The Wall Street Journal