Editorial: Time to Pull the Plug on Celebrity Gossip

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TMZ, the outfit that has broken stories including the one about Mel Gibson and his raging drunkenness, now has "TMZ on TV." Perez Hilton, star of a juvenile celebrity gossip blog, is the star of a new VH1 show called "What Perez Sez."

It may be too late to go back, what with Us Weekly dominating newsstands and with cell-phone cameras in the pockets of a generation trained to take pictures first, post them to the Web second and ask questions ... never.

But now that the celebrity news and gossip eruption has oozed into TV, it is time, the Chicago Tribune opines, to rein in our salacious instincts and say "enough."

Enough with the endless chronicling of Lindsay Lohan. Enough with the non-stop steam of Britney Spears "news."

Enough with encouraging the prevailing celebrity gossip attitude that says, "You are famous, and so have relinquished all right to reasonable treatment."

It is one thing to report vigorously on illegal doings by people who happen to be well known, quite another to troll L.A. streets in hopes of catching Hollywood gossip or non-ordinary behavior â€" borrowing $5 from a friend to pay the valet â€" and then turn it, with commentary, rancid.

It may make even the most star-crazed among us queasy at times, but stars, for their fame, have sacrificed the right to complain, according to Mario Lavandeira, the celebrity gossip blogger better known as Perez Hilton.

"My position is that politicians and celebrities have made a choice to live life in the public arena, and when you're a public figure, you need to be prepared for the public talking about you," he says.

Lavandeira's idea of commentary is to scrawl on photos he posts: "Suicide watch" on a Britney Spears picture, male genitalia on a guy next to Jessica Simpson.

Of such amazing wit, superstardom is born.

Surprisingly, he's almost charming in the TV show. TMZ, on the other hand, gets nastier on TV, in part because it often has scant celebrity news to report and has to fill time with old footage and commentary.

"This is not my bag. I am a lawyer. I did investigative reporting," says Harvey Levin, the former TV producer who started TMZ for AOL Time Warner.

He stars in "TMZ on TV" as sort of the guiding intellectual force. This involves saying, "I love it," when told of some new naked photos or footage.

But he can't quite muster a defense of what TMZ does. He is eloquent on his site's reporting standards - pretty good in terms of breaking news, much less so in making fair use of video it accumulates trolling Hollywood late at night.

Ask him why TMZ is important or necessary, and you get something along the lines of a Miss Teen South Carolina (Lauren Caitlin Upton) stammer, to use another recent Internet gossip victim as an example.

Continue reading this Chicago Tribune indictment of Hollywood gossip ...

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