Friday, April 13, 2007

Imus In The Gloaming

"Life is being on the wire, everything else is just waiting." - the late Karl Wallenda

Man, bad week to be Don Imus! On Monday he had a nationally syndicated radio show and it was simulcast live on MSNBC - here it is Friday, and he's the local morning guy on a sports station. All because of a muttered description of a woman's basketball team. Had he just followed the herd and ignored woman's basketball, he'd be on his way to Santorum's house by now for cocktails.

I'm not going to repeat the phrase here - it's offensive but you've heard worse. What's fascinating to me is how we went from "Oh, that's just Imus" to "Imus must be stopped!" I've seen plenty of worse examples of hate speech from Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh, but even outside of the partisan politics you can't swing a clock radio without running into some shock jock making fun of latinos or asians every single day in this great land of ours. Often there is no repercussion beyond an insincere apology; and you almost never get the wholesale airwave scrubbing that Imus went through.

This is why I think the real reason CBS kicked him off has little to do with the incident. Most likely bad demographics coupled with excessive salary demands got Imus fired, with the remark simply being a good vehicle to void the contract. This may be cynical to say it's the whole reason; but from out here it sure looks like it.

Morning radio is a tightrope walk, hence the quote from the founder of the famous Flying Wallendas. You have to be outrageous just to compete, but you can't be too outrageous and keep your job. And the line between the two isn't thin. It's wide, grey, and it moves under you all the time. Poor Don Imus wasn't even near the edge when it slipped out from under him. His career isn't over though. When a radio guy loses his job, it simply means he's hirable by any station who was losing to his time slot. If he doesn't retire, he'll be back in a month tops.

Just now as I was driving back from McDonalds with my multi-culturaliscious southwest chicken salad, I heard a program director saying that Imus wasn't a shock jock, he was an intelligent interviewer who spoke with the most influential Washington power players of our age. Why couldn't he be both? Doesn't a comany town like DC need a shock jock too? To hold that opinion is to fail to recognize just how big the intersection is between showbiz and politics nowadays. They are, at heart, the same thing. The difference is how the money is raised.

And I have to say, just how relevant IS Don Imus? Before this week I'd never have bothered to write about him. After this week, same thing. Clearly, this is the best place to stop.

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