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It's Over: CBS Radio Fires Imus

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Network Chief Cites Effect of Language on Youth

"CBS today announced its decision to cease broadcasting the Imus in the Morning radio program, effective immediately, on a permanent basis," the network announced Thursday afternoon.



"From the outset, I believe all of us have been deeply upset and revulsed by the statements that were made on our air about the young women who represented Rutgers University in the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship with such class, energy and talent," said CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves, in the statement announcing the decision.

"Those who have spoken with us the last few days represent people of goodwill from all segments of our society — all races, economic groups, men and women alike. In our meetings with concerned groups, there has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society. That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision, as have the many emails, phone calls and personal discussions we have had with our colleagues across the CBS Corporation and our many other constituencies."

The statement noted that "Imus in the Morning" was carried on 61 stations across the United States.

"Moonves concluded: 'I want to thank all those who came to see us to express their views. We are now presented with a significant opportunity to expand on our record on issues of diversity, race and gender. We intend to seize that opportunity as we move forward together.'"

There was no announcement of what — or who —Imus' replacement would be.



However, Jesse Noyes and Jessica Heslam wrote in the Boston Herald Thursday that, "The Herald has learned that Westwood One, which syndicates Imus's radio program, sent a memo to its affiliates telling them WTKK host Mike Barnicle will fill in for Imus when his suspension begins Monday.

"Barnicle, a friend and frequent guest on Imus's show, has been embroiled in his own controversy. In 2004, Barnicle was forced to apologize on his own radio show for using the word 'mandingo' to refer to former WCVB host Janet Langhart, who is black, and her husband, former secretary of defense William S. Cohen, who is white.

"Mandingos are people who live in West Africa and 'Mandingo' is the name of a 1975 movie about a black slave who has an affair with a white woman."

Meanwhile, David Bauder reported for the Associated Press that it was "an internal mutiny within NBC News about Imus' racial slur that was key to pulling the plug on his MSNBC simulcast.

"About 30 angry NBC News employees, many of them black, met with news division president Steve Capus less than 24 hours before Capus decided that a two-week suspension of Imus' morning telecast wasn't enough," the story said.

"They said they'd had it with Imus' brand of coarse ethnic humor, capped with last week's reference to the Rutgers female basketball players as 'nappy-headed hos.'

"'Within this organization, this had touched a nerve,' Capus said Wednesday. 'The comment that came through to us, time and time again, was "when is enough going to be enough?" This was the only action we could take.'"

Bauder reported, "Losing Imus will be a financial hit to CBS Radio, which also suffered when Howard Stern departed for satellite radio. The program is worth about $15 million in annual revenue to CBS, which owns Imus' home radio station WFAN-AM and manages Westwood One, the company that syndicates the show across the country.

"The Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson met with Moonves on Thursday to demand Imus' removal, promising a rally outside CBS headquarters Saturday and an effort to persuade more advertisers to abandon Imus.

"The news came down in the middle of Imus' Radiothon, which has raised more than $40 million since 1990. The Radiothon had raised more than $1.3 million Thursday before Imus learned that he lost his job.

"'This may be our last Radiothon, so we need to raise about $100 million," Imus cracked at the start of the event.

"Volunteers were getting about 200 more pledges per hour than they did last year, with most callers expressing support for Imus, said Tony Gonzalez, supervisor of the Radiothon phone bank. The event benefited Tomorrows Children's Fund, the CJ Foundation for SIDS and the Imus Ranch."

Imus did the show from MSNBC studios, although MSNBC did not simulcast the show. He attacked the network, saying "the hypocrisy of MSNBC and the press is just outrageous. Everybody knows what the deal is." Imus and his supporters have complained that contrary to the impression critics leave, he is not a racist. He should be thought of as one who does good deeds and has a good heart, but did a bad thing, they said.

However, Imus added, "But if I hadn't said it, we wouldn't be here. Let me talk to the girls on the team and then move on."

Team members appeared via satellite on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" with their head coach, who approved of MSNBC's decision to pull Imus' television simulcast, the Associated Press reported.

"It shows that we do have moral fiber. And people are speaking up," coach C. Vivian Stringer said.

The Asian American Journalists Association, which previously said only that it supported its Unity partners— the other journalist of color organizations— applauded the cancellation of the Imus show and the decisions by advertisers to pull out.

"It sends a clear message that individuals like Imus, while guaranteed the right to free speech, also have the responsibility to ensure that the airwaves are not used as a venue to insult or demean any person or group on the basis of race and ethnicity, citizenship and nationality, gender or sexual orientation, and religious or political affiliation," said the statement by Jeanne Mariani-Belding, the national president, and Rene M. Astudillo, the executive director.

"Just five months ago, AAJA had called on Imus to apologize for racial comments he made on his program while discussing the issue of obesity in China. As is the case with his comments on the Rutgers women's basketball team, Imus later apologized for his diatribe about the Chinese people. (See

"AAJA believes, however, that prevention is better than a cure, and that no amount of apology can fully diminish the hurt caused by such insensitivity, especially when it involves an entire race."

On the e-mail list of the National Association of Black Journalists, an organization that on Friday had called for Imus to be fired by Monday, this was one reaction to the day's developments:

"I'm rather irritated that this has shaped up into 'those uppity Black folks brought a man down,' and that few White people (Cal Ripken being a notable exception) said Imus was wrong, period. I still don't think the Bob Schieffers and Tim Russerts ought to be let off the hook for acting like Imus was okay so long as he didn't spout his nonsense in their presence when they were on his show.

"Along that line, I see the storyline now turning into 'Why won't those uppity Black folks crack down on the gangsta rappers?' rather than 'What responsibility do all broadcasters have to the public?'"

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Sam Fulwood Yanked as Cleveland Columnist

Veteran journalist Sam Fulwood III has been dropped from his metro columnist's job at the Cleveland Plain Dealer by outgoing editor Douglas C. Clifton, Fulwood and Clifton confirmed on Thursday. Fulwood told Journal-isms he thought the move "mean-spirited."



Clifton said Fulwood's Thursday column, on embattled radio host Don Imus, was Fulwood's last, and that he was being reassigned to the arts and features staff to do general assignment stories on the pop culture beat.

Plain Dealer veteran Richard Peery, who took a buyout last fall after more than 30 years at the paper, told Journal-isms on Thursday that "the concern" was that Fulwood would be replaced by editorial writer Phillip Morris, whom Peery called "one of those . . . black writers who reinforces white supremacy rather than challenges it, and he does it constantly. I've told him that to his face," he said. Morris did not respond to a request for comment.

The Plain Dealer announced later in the day that Morris, who has served on the Plain Dealer's editorial board for the past 16 years, would succeed Fulwood and that his first column would appear April 24.

"'Phillip's once weekly op-ed column has been one of the paper's strongest, and the Metro column will allow him to do more of what he does best — get out into the community and offer intelligent perspective on it,' Clifton told the newsroom in an e-mail," the Plain Dealer story said.

Clifton told Journal-isms he expected that Morris' column would go "deeper into the community. Sam's column was occasionally that way, but it was more his personal reflections, which is perfectly fine, and frankly, I wanted something different."

Fulwood replied that "there's 180 days of my column on the Web site" if anyone wanted to see whether he had been in the community.

Fulwood, 50, came to the Cleveland paper in 2000 after 11 years in the Los Angeles Times' Washington Bureau.

"We're enormously lucky to have him," Clifton told readers on July 25, 2000. "He's an outstanding newspaper man with a passion for the business. Already he's shown concern and interest in Cleveland."

Fulwood's column appeared three times a week, and in 2004, his pieces were packaged into a book, "Full of It: Strong Words and Fresh Thinking for Cleveland"

Fulwood told Journal-isms, "I think this is awful. I don't understand why he felt it was necessary to make a change as he's going out the door. I think that's mean-spirited." Clifton is retiring effective May 15, after which he said he would "take some breathing time." Publisher Terrance C.Z. Egger has not named a successor.



Fulwood did not write a farewell column. As to whether he would accept the new assignment, he said, "I have no choice. I have to work."

Peery noted that Fulwood was hired by Mark Russell, the former Plain Dealer assistant managing editor/metro who left in 2004 to become managing editor of the Orlando Sentinel, leaving the Plain Dealer with no ranking newsroom managers of color.

"Fulwood did bring a perspective that is badly needed in the pages of the Plain Dealer, of seeing issues from the perspective of the mainstream black community, as opposed to what the other columnists are doing. He was an important added voice," Peery said.

Fulwood wrote a memoir in 1996, "Waking From the Dream: My Life in the Black Middle Class," in which he argued that being in the first generation of Southern blacks to have access to white institutions hadn't lived up to the hype.

On the Sports Task Force e-mail list of the National Association of Black Journalists, Justice B. Hill, a senior writer with who is a Cleveland native, wrote:

"Not sure how many of you are familiar with The Plain Dealer. At best, it's a dull newspaper that shows none of the progressive, innovative thinking that marks the elite newspapers in America. Its Sports section has the two dullest and laziest columnists in America. Neither one of them speaks to a city that's more than 50- percent black. They don't under[stand] the issues, the personalities or literary themes that touch the souls of black folk.

"But Sam Fulwood, whom I do not know well, understood those themes. Sam Fulwood articulated those urban themes with a graceful style that is the hallmark of a seasoned professional. And Sam Fulwood's reward: a demotion.

"In a strikingly different way from the Imus controversy, Sam's plight should concern us, too, as we survey the landscape today and see media that increasingly are [absent] black voices."

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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