On the front page of this week’s Sunday Times, Jim Rutenberg provided a lengthy cross-section into the world of celebrity gossip, most specifically in its grossest (and most lucrative) format, the internet. Looking specifically at its most successful voices, namely websites TMZ and Radar, we are given a glimpse of the utterly predatorial scalpel of its journalism, as well as its no-holds-barred methods, becoming all the more essential as the public eye only grows hungrier.

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Posting more than 30 exclusive items a day is common. “We’re trying to build what they call addicts online,” [editor in chief of Radar] Mr. Perel said.

TMZ, owned by Time Warner, created the model in 2005, upending the entertainment news business by proving that a huge audience exists for continuous gossip updates. Its founding followed the emergence of savvy “celebutantes” like Paris Hilton, who were happy to invite selected paparazzi to track their every move–whether it led to a shopping spree or an arrest for drunken driving.

“It was based on reality TV,” said Stephen Lenehan, a veteran of the photo agency business. “You could live with the celebrities minute-by-minute.” TMZ upped the ante when it began posting documents from the confidential police and court files of celebrities.

Despite that fact that this kind of intrusive, obsessive attention on the daily life of a celebrity sits on an understated notion that celebrities are “out there” and real people are “here,” reality television has complicated the hierarchy, creating a subculture of ex-reality stars, authentic livers of life who have found themselves ensnared and yet still addicted to the life of stardom.

Increasingly, celebrities are not just victims. With only so many big time personalities in rehab, facing indictment or–a la Charlie Sheen–in public crack-up mode, a raft of reality stars, former reality stars and would-be reality stars have filled the breach with attention-grabbing antics of their own. Some have broken the law–like the now-famous Colorado couple whole falsely reported their young son was floating away in a helium balloon–or, the authorities sometimes suspect, pretended to break the law to create marketable story line by staging physical altercation or domestic disputes.

As we know, though, attention is attention. The article is quick to conclude that the victims as such—the B-list actors, the former reality stars—in a state of limelight regained, sooner or later become the victimizers, using their own intrusive exposés to gather material gain. In short, those judged before the camera whore themselves out for more. The public’s addiction for juicier exclusives leads the stars to swim in half-lives of half-lives of the wrong kind of attention. Amongst others, Rutenberg focuses on the Lindsey Lohan’s father Michael as the exemplar:

Mr. Lohan has managed to attain enough B-list fame to land a slot in the coming season of “Celebrity Rehab” on VH1, for anger management treatment. He was paid six figures for roughly three weeks of filming. On any given day, Mr. Lohan can be seen on Radar or TMZ promoting his rock song, “A Father’s Love,” about his daughter; writing to Mr. Sheen on his need for rehabilitation; or appearing in a video with Ms. Major (his mistress) getting his-and-her Botox injections.

In late 2009, he gave Radar a recording of a conversation with his daughter about her depression and isolation. His own voice was stripped from the tape, which he said he released to pressure her to get help. At the time, Mr. Lohan told the New York Post that he was not being paid for the tapes but suggested he might have been for an accompanying interview. In an interview with The Times in February, to which he was accompanied by a former Penthouse model, Mr. Lohan would not discuss specific transactions, but said the fees were “chump change” compared with his earnings from other endeavors. “I trade a hedge fund,” he said. “I went to jail for insider trading.”

He has extended his role beyond his own family, joining the ranks of “story brokers” who negotiate gossip-for-pay deals.