The public airing of the videotape showing D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's arrest is prompting many in the Washington area to reflect on how they feel about themselves and their community, as well as raising questions around the country and the world about what kind of place this is.

In the few days since the tape was released, people have worried about its effect on children who are in the process of forming values, on recovering addicts who are resisting the lure of drugs, on relations between the races and relations among family members.

Scenes of Barry smoking crack with Hazel Diane "Rasheeda" Moore at the Vista Hotel repelled some and compelled others to watch over and over as the images flooded local, national and international airwaves.

Although some people said they thought it was a service to show the tape publicly, others were convinced it had no positive effect.

"I don't think they should have showed something like that on TV," 12-year-old Jamila Brown said at Tysons Corner Center, one of scores of interviews around the region for this story. "It's a bad example for the kids."

Stephen Klaidman, a senior research fellow at Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute of Ethics who specializes in journalistic ethics, said interest in the tape is enormous.

"It's legitimate news," he said. "It shows the state at work against an individual who is charged with serious crimes, who is the mayor. It gives the public the chance to make up its own mind about the fairness of what's going on."

Pat Casey, executive director of WUSA-TV (Channel 9) news, said jurors will make up their minds about the mayor's innocence or guilt on drug charges based, in part, on what the tape shows. The people of Washington, he said, should have the same opportunity.

"We think citizens have the right to see the entire tape and make their own decisions," said Casey, whose station broadcast all 83 minutes of the tape Thursday night and ran small segments of it many times during the day.

Stephen Minard, of Alexandria, said, "It shows the public exactly what's going on. A lot of people had heard about it, but until you actually see it, you're still kind of skeptical."

But Tony Wright, 18, a Northeast Washington resident who plans to attend the University of the District of Columbia in the fall, was deeply offended that the tape was shown on local television.

"I think it should have been strictly court evidence," he said. "It not only ruined his political life, it ruined his life. The media blows things out of proportion. He might not be able to get a job. He might not be able to get a job at McDonald's. No one will want him around."

Eugene Phillips, 36, of Hyattsville, said he was embarrassed for the mayor. He also was concerned about the effect the tape had on his son. "I have a little kid," he said. "I don't know what to tell him now. He's kind of confused. He comes home and tells me, 'Well, the mayor did drugs,' and what am I supposed to do?"

The grainy image of the mayor smoking crack was enough to bother some recovering addicts, said Beth Kane, who runs the counseling program at Suburban Hospital's Addiction Treatment Program.

Several of her patients "absolutely got a craving" for crack when they saw Barry and Moore handle the pipe and heard them speak in a language associated with drugs.

"It didn't look like a first-time user, and any addict could surmise that," Kane said. "One patient, a woman in her thirties, got a craving after seeing it just once, and didn't watch again. Either people are going to have cravings from watching, or they're going to say, 'Hey, I don't want to be there.' . . . They're glad they don't have to live their lives like that anymore."

Not all of what was disturbing on the tape had to do with drugs. Some said they were more stunned by Barry's behavior with Moore in the hotel room than they were by the crack smoking.

"The scene with him in the bed with her," said Kathy Brown, 36, of Arlington, "I was very disappointed with that . . . . I really expected all along that he was doing drugs, so that didn't strike me."

Many people, black and white, said they thought the public viewing of the tape would hurt race relations.

"I don't think it's so bad for Washington's image," said Arthur Peacott, 66, of Falls Church. "Whites, I should think, would begin to form a stereotype, and that's bad. I don't think black people are more prone to that kind of activity than white people."

"Having the world see that tape is an embarrassment for the Washington area," said Michael Rininger, 19, of Reston.

Some people argued that the release of the tape amounted to overkill by the prosecution.

Lynn Baldwin, 22, interviewed at Barry Farms in Southeast Washington, said the tape should not have been shown because the mayor was on his "own time" when he visited the hotel.

"Most of the teenagers are going to look up to the man because he's done a lot for black folks," Baldwin said. "He got himself some help {through addiction treatment}, and he's still got people out here who will give him some support."

Nationally, ABC, CBS and NBC led their Thursday evening news broadcasts with excerpts of the tape that were more than two minutes long. CNN devoted nearly an hour and a half to the tape during its news programs, "Crossfire" and "Larry King Live." ABC made the tape the subject of "Nightline."

There was wide agreement at a meeting of Miami Herald editors Thursday that the Barry story deserved front-page play, said associate news editor Frank Davies. "The videotape itself is so dramatic," he said. "I think this is a compelling story no matter what community you're in."

Most television stations in Miami led their news broadcasts that day with South African leader Nelson Mandela's visit to the city. But Sharon Scott, news director of NBC-affiliated WTVJ Channel 4 in Miami, said, "When you see the mayor of the capital of a country on tape smoking crack, that pretty much makes for big news."

Although serious newspapers and television stations in Germany were more concerned with unification issues than the mayor of Washington, a splashy, popular scandal sheet called Bild featured the tape under a headline that referred to some of Moore's testimony: "We Did It in the Bishop's Bed."

The tape was not played prominently in Colombia, which has its own drug problems, but newspapers ran stories, and editorial comment was bitter. The newspaper La Prensa ran a tongue-in-cheek piece suggesting that the United States extradite Barry to Colombia.

Officials in Colombia said that descriptions of the crack-smoking incident confirmed their worst fears about how pervasive the use of cocaine is in the United States and how easy it is to obtain on the streets.

Klaidman, of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, offered consolation. Once the dust of international opinion settles, an impression will remain that the city is a place where "justice gets done," he said. "I don't think you worry about your image in these cases . . . . I think if you do what's right, your image reflects that."

Staff writers Jane Seaberry, Gabriel Escobar, Daniel Pink, Claudia Levy and Marc Fisher and special correspondents Douglas Farah and Cindy Ycaza contributed to this report.