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Charlie Sheen's antics keep media busy but better reporting needed

Charlie Sheen's antics are keeping a lot of reporters -- both in the mainstream and tabloid media -- in business. On Thursday, after ranting to radio personality Alex Jones and later TMZ about Chuck Lorre, the co-creator and executive producer of the CBS hit "Two and a Half Men," the show that employs Sheen, the network and producer Warner Bros. said they were pulling the plug on the season.

Unfortunately, in the rush to get out the latest rants from the sitcom star, lots of slipshod and misleading reporting and headline writing has been going on.

SHEEN,jpg The latest examples of lazy reporting come from TMZ and Radar and even ABC's "Good Morning America." All three took Sheen, the star of the CBS hit "Two and a Half Men" at his word when he said he is in talks with HBO about a new show. If any of them had bothered to wait for a response from HBO, they'd have gotten a statement that the network is not talking with Sheen or his camp. (Note: See correction below regarding Radar)

Now there may soon be spin that HBO was talking to him and pulled out or that they were approached and passed. Regardless, greater effort should have been made to get a comment from the pay cable channel.

That phone call, however, would have taken 10 seconds and in the gotta-get-it-online-fast world of today's media, flushing out a story with more reporting before throwing it out there is a thing of the past. Today it's shoot first, aim later. 

One could counter that if Sheen said it, then it must be true. But given Sheen's recent behavior and run-ins with the law, it might be best to take a few extra seconds and do more digging instead of just going with everything he says.

Then there are the misleading stories that are posted online only to drive traffic. Last week, Radar ran a story with the headline: "EXCLUSIVE: Two And A Half Men + One (Supporting) Woman: Charlie's Co-Star Holland Taylor Stands By Troubled Star."

In the story, Taylor is quoted as saying, "All I can say is that I have the highest regard for the people working-on and producing the show and for Charlie's well being too."

That's standing by him? Actually that is a generic statement meant to offend no one and does not reveal anything.

Another example of questionable journalism comes, unfortunately, from ABC News, which should know better. Besides also not checking out the HBO angle, "Good Morning America" posted a story on its website that among other things says that Sheen's father, actor Martin Sheen, is "standing by his son."

Again, reading what Martin Sheen actually said does not give that impression. He said, "with prayer, we lift him up and we ask for everyone who cares about him to lift him up." That's not a father standing by his son, it's a father asking people to pray for his son's well-being.

Lastly, the "Good Morning America" piece wrote that "Two and a Half Men" executive producer Chuck Lorre "accused the actor earlier this week of having reckless sex and a drug problem."

That, of course, is a reference to a recent "vanity card" that Lorre attached to the end credits of "Two and a Half Men." Those cards are seen as satrical but context was lost in ABC's piece as well as the fact that Sheen had laughed off the vanity card in question.

There is a real story here. The fights among Sheen, CBS and Warner Bros. have put a lot of people out of work and will be a big financial hit for all involved. It will take more than a few text messages from Sheen, some canned statements from CBS, Warner Bros. and other cast members to figure out exactly what is going down. Hopefully the media can take their hands off the keyboard and work the phones instead of taking dictation.

-- Joe Flint

For the record: This post incorrectly said that Radar did not call HBO for comment on its report regarding Charlie Sheen saying he was offered a series by the pay cable channel. In Radar's initial report, it said HBO could not be reached for comment and in fact did make an effort to reach the network but published before getting a response.

Photo: Charlie Sheen. Credit: Rick Wilking/Reuters.

Comments () | Archives (13)

I have been following this story for the better part of a few hours from various online news outlets, and I couldn't agree more.

There is also a disgusting amount of copying and pasting going on from supposedly reputable news sources.

Plagiarism and laziness.

I look forward to the LATimes getting a better story with some substance.

Raw Story is stating that he has been "fired", as opposed to the rest of the season being cancelled. Yes, a lot of shoddy reporting out there on this story.

What I would like to know relates to the legal basis of being able to cut off Sheen since there is apparently no morals clause in his contract and he claims he is able to work. What changed, legally, with the rants on Thursday that allowed the parties to make such a quick announcement to dump him that they were obviously prepared for? What was it in the contracts that allowed them to do that when Sheen seemed to think it couldn't be done and still seems to think that if he shows up, he has some sort of claim, at least to be paid?

Brilliant Joe.

Finally, someone from a mainstream paper has the balls to actually comment on the lack of quality, integrity, truth, and process in tabloid and citizen journalism. I have been a journalist for 23 years, and am appalled at the growing lack of professionalism and sound judgement not only by the "reporters", but also the editors and publishers. I was thinking this morning that so many people, cast, crew, marketing, agents, etc, will be suffering due to one man's lack of humanity and ability to recognize a problem. The network can blame itself. It put all their eggs in one basket. The audience loved Charlie's character because they lived vicariously through him, (guys would never live a lifestyle like that, but they sure would love to at times). As Gen-X producers rule the formats, good taste and credibility goes out the window. Keep going Joe. Stand up for the integrity and ethics of the industry and be a mentor for the wanna-be's out there who should enrol themselves in journalism school first.

Irresponsible journalism being practiced in entertainment reporting?!?
Gambling in Casablanca? I'm shocked, Rick! Hey, here's a thought: go read a book on economics or something that is impacting your real life, instead. Nah!

No offense, but while you are picking on the media's lack of effort, you need to put in a little more effort yourself. Your grammar, in particular, is lacking. "Then there is the misleading stories that are posted online only to drive traffic."

That should read, "Then there ARE the misleading stories...".

There is shoddy reporting on the Sheen story, but it's not by RadarOnline.com, it's by Joe Flint. If he had read Radar's post he would have noticed that it clearly stated HBO was called but no one was available to comment. This was on late Thursday after we reported Sheen's comments that he was working on a show for HBO. On Friday, when HBO did comment, the post was updated to include the network's denial.
Suggestion to Flint: read the entire post before writing something that is so easy to prove wrong.

David Perel
Managing Editor

Although every news media outlet unintentionally slants their reporting, the L.A. Times is right on this time. There is too much of a rush to get the story out. A prime example is when AP reported Gabrielle Giffords to be dead. What ever happended to responsible reporting?


The post has been corrected and your concerns noted. That said, I would argue that you and your readers would have been better served waiting for a response from HBO rather than rushing it out there.


Joe Flint


We write in a hurry and edit in a hurry and sometimes that is the result.

lol @ "There is a real story here." A tiny fraction of Hollywood may be forced to suffer the ordeal of finding another job... now they're reduced to being like a huge segment of the American population... good god.

A "real story" would involve reporting on the economy at large; it might involve a few big words and even graphs with numbers (noooo). But that hurts people's brains and is depressing and dull, so we get stories about Charlie Sheen instead. How fun.

If you really want to know about slipshod reporting, check out the story about the Somali pirates killing their hostages, and read the Navy's account of events. Not one reporter from the times has questioned the operation, or interviewed the pirates.

We invaded two countries because we trusted the words of elected officials and their military staff. Hey, they are trusted officials right? They couldn't possibly be telling us something other than the truth, right? Right.

Journalists, professional or otherwise, mostly otherwise, did not do their homework on weapons of mass destructions, why then should anyone expect better reporting on an actor? The collateral damages in this shoddy reporting will not be lives lost.

The basic problem in question appears to be that while CBS and WB have no problem with the behavior of Charlie Harper but wished that Charlie Sheen does not behave like the character Sheen played that made everyone involved a ton of money?

If Charlie Harper/Sheen's behavior is so immoral why then is the show such a hit?


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