Has the Media Been Fair to Charlie Sheen?

Everyone's talking about Charlie Sheen's radio rant and meltdown. He'll appear on 20/20 tonight in which, according to released clips, he'll discuss the recent uproar over his comments about CBS and Two and a Half Men. Now, he's reportedly demanding a raise and looking to write a $10 million tell-all book about his experiences at CBS. Faced with Sheen's self-destructive and strange behavior, should the media back off from this story, or are journalists, with captivated audiences in mind, providing an appropriate response?

The media is exploiting him: This is "a story with absolutely no socially redeeming value," says David Zurawik in the Baltimore Sun. Once CBS pulled the plug on "Men," "a responsible TV press would have moved on and let Sheen debase himself in private." But we keep pushing, pretending "we are doing something important by pointing a camera at this sorry wreck of an actor and miking him up for more ridiculous and ignorant quotes." Reporters are acting like "jackals" - "Is TV not feeding off the remains of Sheen's celebrity carcass?" We should be above that.

It's troubling, and bad for Sheen: "When a drunken fan runs onto the field at a baseball game, all the cameras look away," says Aaron Barnhart in The Kansas City Star. Back off, people. "It's time for all the tabloid media to stop returning Charlie's texts and calls. Instead, they should be using their journalism to identify the people around Charlie who can actually get him into a rehab facility -- against his will if necessary -- and then start badgering them to do something."

He welcomes the coverage: "The hilarity is lessened by the fear that he's self-destructing before our eyes, though if he is, it's not very high on the list of tragic things in the world," says Jaime Weinman in Maclean's. This is "his own decision" which is what makes this meltdown "so entertaining" to watch. There's also less of a "guilt factor involved" because "there's also the feeling that he knows exactly what he's doing." There's also a sense that he "wouldn't listen (hasn't listened) to anyone, whether or not there was a media circus going on."