TMZ, the Los Angeles-based Time Warner-owned entertainment gossip site, is getting quite a lot of attention for having first broke the news of Michael Jackson's tragic death earlier today.

How does the site do it?  Last year in Hollywood, I spoke with Alan Citron, former Los Angeles writer and the founding general manager of the site.   He spoke about how the publisher utilizes live video streaming from celebrity sightings in parking lots, restaurants, and courtrooms.

He attributed the wildly successful site to managing editor Harvey Levin  (comment at 3:30 on video).

Alan left TMZ last summer to join Buzz Media where he is President.  Reached by email a few minutes ago about the TMZ scoop, here's what he told me:

"TMZ has drifted into a lot of juvenile satire lately, but Harvey’s still the best when it comes to serious celebrity news reporting. It’s highly likely that TMZ will own this story."

Update: Here's today's Los Angeles Times story on TMZ and how they broke the big story. Here's what Levin told the paper about the lack of credit from some media for the scoop:

"That's typical," Levin said during a phone interview when asked about rivals' hesitation to credit the site,"No matter what they say, people know we broke the story. That's how competitors handle it. There's no issue about our credibility."

"Today I made 100 phone calls, and everyone else made 100 calls," Levin said of his staff. "Everyone blanketed the city. . . . We were getting calls from everyone under the sun, established news operations, asking, 'Are you sure?' That's such an odd question. We would not have published it if it were not true."

More from the Associated Press.

Here's a New York Time story by Brian Stelter in 2007 about TMZ.

Marvelous Michael Jackson music video of Who is It.  It's an incredible dance compilation. What a terrible loss.

Andy Plesser, Executive Producer