Conflict, controversy and human interest are three main drivers news. Charlie Sheen’s saga combines all of them.
Media have been criticized of late for broadcasting interviews of Sheen in his current condition, shortly after CBS and Warner Bros. canceled the star’s #1 hit sitcom “Two and a Half Men” for the rest of the 2011 season.
Sheen seems to be under some kind of psychological distress, either drug related or due to mental illness, although public drug tests showed that he’s clean of chemical substances. His physical appearance may show otherwise.
Sheen’s strategy of inviting media to publicly cover his drug testing added fuel to the proverbial media firestorm. The fact that Sheen accepted and at times initiated interview requests put media somewhat in the clear for their coverage of the comedic actor.
Should media back off on Sheen? Media do have an ethical responsibility, but also report news for their respective audiences whether they are readers, listeners or viewers. Celebrities and controversial political figures are lightning rods for media coverage. Sometimes media interest borders on the unexplainable, such as with Sara Palin and Kim Kardashian.
The same goes for Sheen. His story is not so unique compared to millions of others who are dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, loss of jobs and careers, not to mention child custody services. The list goes on. Sheen being a celebrity makes the news more interesting.
There is a business story here however, such as jobs being affected due to Sheen’s behavior, loss of revenue for a network and studio, as well as possible lower taxable income for the state. But that story is less interesting compared to the number of Sheen’s Twitter followers, which reached a record amount since the account was first created. Really?
As much as people want to turn away and not pay attention, the reality is it’s too good not to watch. It works both ways however. In better times, these public figures leverage their celebrity with media to launch product, build businesses and influence opinion.
Right now, everyone wants to see what Sheen will do next. Media will cover this story as long as Sheen plays along or the news gets old and someone else becomes center stage. That may be a while given “Sheen’s Korner” now airing on YouTube.