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Media: Is it fair for the media to exploit Charlie Sheen?

March 1, 2011 | 11:16 am

Nicholas-Kristof "If there's a symbol of everything wrong with television news, it's the focus on Charlie Sheen," New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday morning. Indeed, there are bigger issues that should take precedent, but judging from the many commercial spots during Sunday's Academy Awards for Tuesday's "20/20" ("I am on a drug. It's called Charlie Sheen.") the actor is good for business.

Which brings up another question about news judgment: Is it fair to interview Sheen if he doesn't have the mental capacity, as his behavior suggests, to know what he's doing right now? From Time.com:

His recent ranting behavior has led viewers to question whether the actor was still on drugs and denying addiction. Or whether he was exhibiting manic symptoms of bipolar disorder. Or some combination of the two. Sheen's negative drug test suggests that addiction is unlikely to be his only problem.

Audiences love a public fall, but this isn't Christina Aguilera getting busted for public intoxication; it isn't even Martha Stewart going to a white-collar prison. It's a man flying off the rails, a man with young children who desperately needs help. And I don't think he should be exploited for ratings. (Unless that show is "Intervention.")

UPDATE: I just came across this wonderful roundup of Opinion pieces on Poynter about the media's coverage of Sheen: Media acting as enablers with excessive coverage of "Two and a Half Men"star Charlie Sheen.

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--Alexandra Le Tellier

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