I'm not a "fan" of American Idol for a number of reasons so I don't watch it...usually. This season however I've been somewhat forced to view at least portions of it because a young woman from San Antonio was among the finalists.
I had to keep tabs on that San Antonio contestant and generate news stories about her progress, or her local fans, or any other angle I could dream up...for weeks on end.
That's over now...she was voted off last night and, although I'm saddened for her personally, I'll admit I'm somewhat thankful that I no longer have to write stories about people I don't "idolize"at all and can't really fathom why anyone would.
Which brings me to the great "Don Imus" controversy. I feel compelled to mention it since it has grown into such a huge story and I do work in the radio industry.
I've never been any more of a fan of Don Imus than I have of American Idol. I haven't listened to or watched him very often. His radio show is not carried in this market and I, like the vast majority of Americans, rarely watch MSNBC.
MSNBC's decision to "fire" Imus is interesting. MSNBC's total nationwide audience, if you exclude those tuning in for the Imus simulcast, is less than the number of people in San Antonio who listen to the morning news on WOAI radio. To cut Imus is going to cost MSNBC dearly...a lot of other folks are going to lose their jobs as a result...unmentioned collateral damage. However, at least MSNBC took a stand...for that I suppose the network deserves some credit.
I certainly am not going to defend the remarks made by Imus, nor am I going to get into the debate over how these misogynistic and racial slurs have become so common place in our culture, although I tend to doubt Don Imus originated them.
What I've been wondering is whether anyone can really come out a "winner" in this situation.
I know Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are getting their time in the spotlight. I expected no less. Yet I tend to doubt they'll really do much although I see they're already taking "credit" for getting Imus fired from his radio job. Maybe Al Sharpton will get the syndication deal he wants for his radio show.
Imus however has made a gazillion bucks. He makes Keith Richards look healthy which isn't easy. I wonder if Imus will really be all that upset to be "forced" from the microphone and simply allowed to live out his remaining days, or considering his skeletal pallor, his remaining hours, far from the scrutiny of the "pile on" media and the various other folks intent on using the corpse of his career as a stepping stone for their own agendas.
I see Imus has already met with the members of the Rutgers women's basketball team about whom he made his unseemly remarks. I'm glad, despite his firing(s) he still went through with that meeting.
No statements were issued, however I'm sure Imus offered an apology and asked them to forgive him...he's seemingly on his apology tour and it does seem fitting that he make a sincere, overt gesture to the people he actually denigrated...maybe even before he does the inevitable Barbara Walter's interview.
I must confess that I have this tiny fragment of hope that those young women at Rutgers eventually will issue a statement and say something that would empower them more than any other response. I dream they will seize upon this chance to look beyond their pain and emotions, and in turn force Americans to examine themselves, their country, and their media.
I would love it if those young women would say something that would not only reinforce the reality that Don Imus is irrelevant, but that would awaken our country to a call for self-examination.
Here's how I envision it in my dreams...
Each member of the team would stand before all those cameras and microphones united and then they'd say something akin to this: "We have met with Mr. Imus. He has apologized and asked us to forgive him. We detest what he said about us. We despise such prejudicial misanthropic mind states that give rise to ill informed and ignorant comments such as his, and we are amazed that anyone could think such hateful words could ever be perceived as 'entertainment.'
However we also believe that the best thing we can do for ourselves, our nation, and Mr. Imus is to do exactly what he has asked...forgive him...completely.
Mr. Imus can not hurt us. We are bigger than words. Our dreams are larger than any person's thoughts and we believe we are not alone in such thinking. In fact, we believe most Americans share our values.
Our mutual and unanimous conviction is that the best way to demonstrate the true character of America is to follow an unwavering moral compass, and in doing so perhaps set an example that will give pause to any others who may still harbor ill-will towards other races, or who think stereotypes in any form can ever be tolerated much less capitalized upon.
Many people have jumped on this incident in an attempt to further divide us.
We do believe this is indeed a 'black and white' issue, but we do not believe it has anything to with race.
We are instead certain that at the core of this episode is our collective character and our national conscience.
We believe this nation, America, is far better than what is hyped in the headlines, bellowed by broadcasters, or prophesied by pundits. The Rutgers women standing before you refuse to lower ourselves to the standards of those who think otherwise or seek to profit by propagating such nonsense.
We will rise above the slurs and the slander, and we're calling on our countrymen and women to do the same.
So Mr. Imus be assured we will not forget your words, but we will indeed forgive them...and we will pray that our words resonate far louder and longer."
Yes, that's my fantasy...a dream that the women of Rutgers will be bold and seize upon this opportunity to challenge all of us to a higher code of ethics, to a deeper standard of decency.
If they would do that imagine how far it might go to truly silence the slurs.
Imagine how it would redefine the term "American Idol."
Original 4/12 post updated on 4/13 to reflect new developments