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Media Under Fire For Charlie Sheen Hype

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Is the mediasphere finally in danger of Charlie Sheen overload?

The unhinged actor, whose associations with drugs, hookers and porn stars have kept him in the headlines since last fall, has given four major video interviews since CBS last week abruptly canceledhis hit show, “Two and a Half Men.” And Sheen’s termination, fittingly enough, issued from yet another controversial media appearance–a radio interview in which Sheen repeatedly attacked the show’s creator.

The latest round of highly candid Sheen chats–with ABC News, NBC News, TMZ and CNN–has made for endlessly entertaining TV and online video, which have, in turn, fanned out into a constant stream of tweets and blog posts chronicling Sheen’s eccentric, at times utterly incoherent, ramblings. Indeed, Sheen-mania built to such a pitch that the star’s own longtime flack resigned because “I’m unable to work effectively as his publicist.”

But as producers and commentators continue to program evermore ranting Sheen footage, some media critics are taking issue with the whole spectacle. Sheen has clearly suffered some sort of mental disturbance, they insist, and  it’s unseemly for news professionals to keep using his outbursts to feed the 24/7 news cycles.

“They’re not just pointing at Charlie Sheen’s self-immolation, they are throwing gasoline on it, and with Sheen’s distress as obvious as it is, making accomplices of the audience,” wrote Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher on Tuesday morning.

“The coverage has become excessive, even dangerous,” the Poynter Institute’s Julie Moos agreed, echoingcomments Monday from Aaron Barnhart of the Kansas City Star: “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.”

Over at Buzz Machine, journalism professor Jeff Jarvis offered an anecdote from his early days as a cub reporter. As Jarvis recalled, a seasoned news editor pulled the young reporter aside to admonish him for pitching a story on a “local character” who was suffering from a mental illness.

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