The Oregonian Pontificates About Don Imus
The Oregonian has jumped on the Imus-bashing band wagon, and it's the safe thing to do. Yes, this is the appropriate move by the corporate media, and the Oregonian's analysis of the depths to which radio has sunk under the shock jocks, is all standard stuff.
I just wonder if the Oregonian editors can hold that all-knowing mirror up and look at themselves? Maybe they should ask themselves about the depths newspapers have sunk to as well. Who has let America down more? Imus and his ilk on the radio, or the 4th Estate?
Before they answer, they should remember that when this country was heading into a war in Iraq, the newspapers went along on a government-directed marketing campaign. Imus didn't take that ride. If Imus led American culture "to a lot of places that would have been better left unexplored", he also explored the case for war when the newspapers refused to look. Wasn't this something that should have been examined more vigorously by our sanctimonious, government servants working in mainstream media?
Don Imus and his producer Bernard McGuirk were the most visible challengers to the War in Iraq before it started, while the newspapers were engaged in copying and pasting the GOP talking points. The exceptions in newspapers were few. For example, I wrote a couple of columns in the Portland Tribune questioning the wisdom of the plan just prior to the invasion, and I was told that led to my dismissal.
Back then there wasn't anyone besides Imus as high up in the mainstream media, who was willing to question the Iraq War. Up till last week, he was the most visible person on television who regularly referred to Dick Cheney as a war criminal. Not to mention the only one. Meanwhile, our newspapers continue to play it safe, through the most dangerously inept administration in American History. How will they be judged on that?
Yes, the newspapers did some stories on Walter Reed, but Imus wasn't letting the story go. He challenged the senators who came on his show the way the 4th Estate used to, before it was purchased by corporate giants and muzzled. So go ahead and unload on his cruel humor. It's always easy to kick someone when they're down, and the racist stuff is indefensible.
Just don't forget to shine that mirror on yourselves. When American culture needed the media to examine the Bush administration, you people were absent, and you still are. Imus was on the case. Imus was angry and outraged while the newspaper editors have been way too complacent and polite. It's like they're stuck in another century.
The editorial about Imus finishes sarcastically that it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Well, maybe the editors of our newspapers should stop being so nice - nice to the powers that be. I'd prefer a little less nice when it comes to issues in this town, as well as with the nightmares facing our nation.
When the historians write about these years, there may be mention of the negative effect of shock jocks on American culture, but the more damning assessment will be the effect of not having a 4th Estate that did its job. If newspapers were more interested in being an independent voice for the People, maybe so many of us wouldn't have turned to Don Imus to try and get a sense of the real news. The Internet gets blamed, but newspapers are also sliding because they haven't been performing their role in a healthy democracy - which is why our democracy is in some trouble right now. The ironic thing is that the newspapers are acting this way, even though they're paying for not doing their jobs. So go ahead and belittle Imus. If the circulation numbers are true, newspaper people are being chased out of their jobs just as surely as Don Imus was - it's just in slow motion.
Radio might have too much shock, but newspapers don't have enough. They're too content to go along. Sure, Imus was straddling some tricky demographics, but he rarely just went along. He didn't duck the issues or create fake ones to have something to report. He was grouchy and cantankerous, but anybody who can report on these times, and not be in a similar mood, is in denial, paid off, or crazy.
Oh, and one other thing: Imus might have had diminished clout according to the Oregonian, but he was able to raise the death benefits for a soldier killed in the war - a war that newspapers helped market - from $12,000 to $100,000 for the spouse and $400,000 for the children. He had enough clout left to do that.
Yes, Imus wasn't nice. Just ask Dick Cheney. Imus was a little too real, but newspapers such as the Oregonian are a little too phony. It's easy to lament the role of shock jocks in our society, and get all morally outraged about what's happened to radio, but the bigger tragedy is what's happened to newspapers. These Oregonian editors should hold that same mirror up and look at themselves.
In the end, the shock was his