Editorial: Media: Stop enabling Charlie Sheen’s self-destructive behavior

Editorial Board

Once self-proclaimed “warlock” Charlie Sheen began his very public downward spiral, it became difficult for all of us to look away. For some twisted reason, schadenfreude seems to be an integral part of the American consumer culture, and there’s probably a significant amount of interest that’s solely based on the sentiment of, “Wow, I’m glad that’s not me.”

But the truth is, even if we lacked that voyeuristic curiosity about Sheen and all his problems, we would still be inundated with reminders almost everywhere we looked. It seems like the only entities that have sought to limit our exposure to the Sheen show are “Two and a Half Men,” the show that fired him, and “Tinted Sheen,” the app that places a black rectangle over anything Sheen-related that shows up in your web browser.

Every other form of media — print, broadcast and online — is rife with stories of Sheen’s latest outrageous quotes and actions. He’s given interviews to “Good Morning America,”” Piers Morgan” and “The Today Show” to name a few. And the forces behind these outlets continue to eat it up, with no apparent consideration for the impact that each additional media appearance has on this troubled man.

Sheen is allowed to make his own decisions about how much access he’ll grant to the media.

But we think it’s time for some of these outlets to shut off the cameras.

There’s nothing saying a media outlet has to act on an interview offer from Sheen.

We’re not so naive as to think that success in the media industry is affected by anything as much as it is by ratings. We understand that media outlets will do everything they can to ensure they obtain the best ratings possible. But, well, we wish, for once, they wouldn’t.

We believe there’s a place for compassion in journalism, in entertainment and in the media in general. And it’s time someone showed it.

Have we, as a society, finally reached the point at which we don’t care that our spotlights are crushing people before our eyes? As consumers of media, are we unaware of the negative impact the camera lens can have on someone in a fragile mental state, or are we just indifferent?

We’ve seen what media attention has done to exacerbate, and potentially even create, the problems in so many stars’ lives. Take Christian Bale, Mel Gibson or — well, just about any star created in the Disney mold, for example.

We’ve even seen what could arguably be referred to as the first death by the hand of the paparazzi, with Princess Diana.

Princess Diana was killed in a car accident almost 14 years ago, and despite public outcry at the time against the role the paparazzi’s relentless pursuit played in her death, the media climate has done little to improve in the years since.

In fact, it seems we’ve become even more obsessed with celebrities. Intimate details of their lives are fodder not only for entertainment outlets such as Access Hollywood and TMZ, but also for network “news” outlets.

It’s time for us to incorporate some compassion into the way we produce and consume news and entertainment. We are currently a society of enablers, and it’s not healthy for anyone.