Imus Fallout—“No One Gets a Pass Here”
April 13, 2007The Reverend Al Sharpton, a key point man on the successful campaign against Don Imus this week, gave clear signals that this was the beginning rather than the end of the war. Long searching for a way to shake up the major media bosses—arguing for diversity on the airwaves and in print—he was gifted by the outrageousness of the Imus misstep. “No one gets a pass here,” is his message to the media. Yesterday he and Jesse Jackson were inside CBS headquarters, meeting with the president of CBS, instead of parading outside the building with a straggle of supporters. When the talking was over, so was Imus’s job. The private meeting between Imus and the Rutgers team went on as scheduled last night—lasting some three hours, reportedly tearful and soul searching. Imus and his wife Deirdre and the team gathered in “neutral territory” of the New Jersey governor’s residence in Princeton. According to Reverend Deforest Soaries, who has been advising the team, the young women listened as he apologized. He told them he was there, not to save his job, because he’d already been fired. “I’m here to save my life.” They responded that because of him, they have been receiving death threats—and tried to get him to explain why he made millions of dollars ridiculing people. Soaries said that Don Imus, for perhaps the first time, understood the hurt he’d inflicted—and the danger he’d brought them as well. At the end of the session, only coach C. Vivian Stringer spoke: “I look forward to a much more productive society…to go forward and let the healing process begin.” Nothing about accepting the Imus apology—although the team is expected to issue a statement today. Of course, even a somewhat earlier apology to the team couldn’t have saved Don Imus his job, as seemed possible only days ago. The question is, who or what is the next target of the coalition galvanized by the episode. The sheer number of organizations who put the muscle of their memberships into the fray, beginning with the National Association of Black Journalists and culminating with most of the major women’s and civil rights groups in the country, was purely amazing for these days of assumed apathy. As one long time soldier in the racist/sexist wars said to me—imagine, a rally is quickly called on a college campus and hundreds of students show up, referring to the response at Rutgers when a coalition of women’s organizations came to support the college basketball team singled out for humiliation by Imus. Don Imus managed to coalesce women, minorities, gays, Jewish organizations—most of whom have major beefs with media. Something must be done with that energy; directed toward insisting on inclusion, it can be powerful. Starting with radio would be a good idea: it is the least diverse media. According to the group, Most Influential Women in Radio, 85 percent of programmers and 90 percent of station managers are men. Almost all radio personalities are men. Stations are the most segregated racially: name the minority women or men with talk shows like Imus on non-minority stations. A tough assignment. It’s why The Women’s Media Center created GreenStone Media—the first woman owned, woman run and hosted radio network. GreenStone’s invitation to listeners: respect spoken here. If you ascribe to that principle, listen at www.greenstonemedia.net.