If you can't spell out ''the N word'' on screen, you have pretty much answered your own question prior to the ''debate''...
We're not talking about the difference between ''dipshit'' and ''asshole'', here. The only thing that comes close to ''nigger'' (yes, I wrote it, because ''the N word'' is the worst euphemism in modern history, because we all know what the fuck is being said, yet the person using it wants to use it without having the balls to actually say it and instead forces you to think it, which makes the listener/reader the asshole...) is the modern use of ''sand nigger'' for anyone from the Middle East, which oddly enough seems more acceptable despite the fact that not only is it a direct attack on people from some 15-20 countries, it incorporates the previous ''nigger'' to imply one (sand) is worse than the other (regular).
I think now is an ok time for a debate on the use of words, on self-censorship and respect, and on the statute of limitations of the transgressions of the past in a time where education is at an all-time low. What I mean by that is the music selling the most units in the United States is rap, and the vast majority of the rappers are black, and even the smartest ones (like the cerebral Mos Def) use the word 'nigger' repeatedly. For adults in their 70s or older - not the target audience - the word conjures up images of the Civil Rights movement; for folks in their 40s and 50s, the images are still vivid, but instead of being from their own recollection, it's from education and their parents explaining how it went down; for folks like me, in our 30s, it's a struggle we haven't seen happen except in documentary footage, but with a legacy that lives on today in the disparity of the applications of the Law codes and how minorities are targeted most by the police and ''the system'' in general in the U.S.
But for suburban white kids, aged 10 to 25, rap is pretty much all they've known in terms of ''culture'', their education is a joke (schools teach Creationism as 'history' for fuck's sake!), not only do they not know about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, they barely understand the concept of slavery except maybe that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves (although they probably think slaves were freed from the British), and the richest people they've ever seen are the gold-wearing rappers in YouTube videos. They have no idea of the struggle, Rosa Parks, the C.I.A. using the actual Ricky Ross to sell crack to ghettos, they don't understand half of what Public Enemy are saying. What they do know is that Black folks call themselves 'nigger' all the time, and that the ultimate acceptance from a Black friend is when he deems the white kid worthy of being called 'my nigger'.
None of which makes for a healthy society, by the way.
But it's where we're at. We need to address that. In a much smarter way than what CNN did. Because it's not about which word is worse (nigger ''wins'', hands down), it's about how widespread it is and how its meaning and implications may be lost on an entire generation and more to come as the young replace the old - which may or may not be a good thing (on the plus side it renders an offensive word weak and takes power away from the fuckers who abused and owned other people, on the other, we should never forget any part of History lest we be condemned to repeat it, though we often repeat it without having forgotten).