Forum on Don Imus Controversy takes place in St. Pete04/27/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Post-Imus World It was just 2 weeks ago that one of the most successful radio personalities in American culture, Don Imus, stunningly lost his radio and television show within a 24 hour period. It happened after corporate sponsors began running away from his hybrid shock jock/political insider radio show, syndicated on the radio by CBS and simulcast for the past 11 years on MSNBC. Although Imus had been insulting various ethnic groups for decades, it was his phrase “knappy headed ho’s “ that specifically led to his downfall, after Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the National Association of Black Journalists began calling for his firing. Eric Deggans is the chief media critic with the St. Petersburg Times, and the Chair of the National Association of Black Journalists Media Monitoring Committee. Last night he organized and moderated a panel discussion on race, gender and class in media, spurred by the Imus scandal (roll tape#1 o.q.”be affected”) The 2 hour plus discussion began specifically about the comments that Don Imus made that led to his demise, but then took off into other aspects of American culture that his initial suspension and then firing spurred 2 weeks ago. Doug Wagenvoord is the co-owner of radio station WTAN 1340 based in Clearwater, the home of “Imus In the Morning” until earlier this month. (roll tape#2 o.q.” or , uh HBO”) Shock Jock extraordinaire Bubba the Love Sponge was in the House. He has already made the transition to satellite radio, working for the past couple of years on Sirius Sattelite Radio on Howard 101, one of the channels allotted to ultimate shock jock Howard Stern. That’s after he was fired by ClearChannel in February of 2004 for ‘indecency’. Moderator Eric Deggans asked Bubba about the impact some of his language could have on women, like his stepdaughter (roll tape#3 o.q.”when she grows up”) Bubba the Love Sponge appeared a bit unnerved by the question (roll tape#4 o.q.”on the radio”) But he then quickly segued from speaking to himself to castigating Al Sharpton, the FCC and George W. Bush, saying it was important to note who is calling for clamping down on free expression on the airwaves. But when members of the public were allowed to express themselves, they weren’t willing to cut Bubba the Love Sponge any slack. A 19 year old Tampa resident who calls himself 2nd Chance called out the shock jock, calling him hypocritical (roll tape#5 o.q.” that was hypocrisy”) The other local Disc Jockey featured on the Panel was 97X FM morning host Fisher. He created a stir when he said (roll tape#6 o.q. “I’m going to go pick up some bitches”) Moderator Eric Deggans then asked News Channel reporter Victoria Lim if she was offended by Fisher’s remark. She said she wasn’t. But Birgit Van Hout from Community Tampa Bay said she was (roll tape#6 o.q.”that feeling about women”) But a member in the audience – Shane Charles , and later Deggans – challenged Victoria Lim’s response (roll tape#7 o.q.” to say something”) Lim forcefully responded (roll tape#8 o.q.”I do not back down”) When the Imus imbroglio was at its full intensity, there were also conversations about the appropriateness of such language used by others, either by comedians, other talk show hosts, and hip-hop artists. It’s been the latter that has spurred perhaps the most conversation. Earlier this week, rap impresario Russell Simmons issued a statement calling for the removal of such words as bitch, ho, and the N word. That has led to some criticism of Simmons, but the issue in some quarters of the black community has resonated. Leon Russell is a former President of the Florida branch of the NCAAP.(roll tape#9 o.q.”the conduct that we model”) One of the most expressive speakers on the panel was spoken word artist L.I.F.E. He acknowledged the destructiveness of rap artists using the N word, but said it can’t compare with hundreds of years of those words coming from whites (roll tape#10 o.q.” 200 plus years”) CBS and MSNBC dumped Don Imus after many corporate sponsors said they would no longer run ads on his show. DJ Eakin , mix show coordinator for The Beat, agreed with others that it would be good to have more ‘positivity’ on hip hop records, but said frankly, its not really good for business, so things won’t really change (rolltape#11 o.q.”if they ain’t making no money”) Again, that event discussing the media landscape Post Imus was held last night at the USF St. Petersburg Campus, and hosted by St Pete Times media columnist Eric Deggans. e networks.