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It’s this mode that distinguishes TMZ from all other celebrity news sites — what gives it teeth or, more precisely, bite.

It’s not the TMZ-employed paparazzi trailing B-listers at the airport, photos of hot celebrities at the beach, or mugshots of celebrity stalkers.

While driving along Broadway: “Ladies, dry off your seats, James Franco’s on Broadway!

And if you’re under 16 on Instagram, he’s probably tried to have sex with you!

As one source explained, “There’s no doubt: [Harvey] Levin absolutely changed the way celebrities function today.”TMZ has been responsible for breaking the biggest celebrity scandals of the last 10 years: effectively ending a 30-year career (Mel Gibson), tarnishing golf’s most sacred idol (Tiger Woods), and puncturing the pristine image of celebrity royalty (Solange Knowles attacking Jay Z).

After stepping on the bus in the middle of Times Square, a TMZ-trained tour guide — handsome, blond, amiable Australian — will ask you and the rest of the bus if you’re a huge fan of the show.

But has it compromised the mission that set it apart from the rest of the gossip industry?

To answer that question, we have to look closely at the story of TMZ — its founding narrative, its breakthrough, and, most crucially, its founder — the man for whom the bus of TMZ acolytes cheered so emphatically.

Buzz Feed spoke to nearly two dozen former TMZ employees, and it’s clear that Bieber’s tape was not the only near-priceless piece of dirt in the proverbial TMZ vault.

(TMZ did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) According to these ex-employees, the sealed testimonies from the Michael Jackson molestation trial hide there as does footage of various celebrities — Bieber, Lohan, Travolta — behaving badly.

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