By now you've most likely heard about the two wholesome, church-going teenagers who plan to lose their virginity live on the Internet.
How could you avoid it? The story was featured prominently on last night's TV news broadcasts and has been covered on all other forms of media, new and old. Headline writers haven't had this much fun since Mike Tyson got the munchies while fighting Evander Holyfield.
From a news perspective, there's no easy way to handle this event. On one hand, one can argue that it's a story that many will be interested in reading. On the other, it's been suggested that this could all be a hoax--luring so many news outlets to facilitate the most elaborate scheme in history to market a new porn site.
At best, it's a true story about two 18-year-olds who want to Webcast one of the most personal events in one's life. Either way, the whole thing strikes me as pretty unsavory.
Which is not to say that this couple doesn't have every right to do whatever they want online. The question is: Do news organizations have to cover it, especially when the facts are in doubt? From where I'm sitting, this is a First Amendment debate--but it's one about freedom of the press, not freedom of speech.
In addition to basic matters of taste, it has been argued that news coverage of sensational events only encourages more outlandish stunts, including illegal ones. For example, some readers have written in to say that reporting the exploits of hackers simply emboldens them to commit more mischief. Others believe that these events fall well within the public's right to know.
Controversy is a natural byproduct of the news business, hardly exclusive to the online world. Nudity, violence, and obscene language have been the source of contention for all types of media.