It’s radio minus Don Imus
ASPEN Radio commentator Don Imus is out of a job, but local fans can still catch a modified version of his show on KNFO-FM, Aspen’s talk radio station.KNFO’s station manager, Colleen Barill, said Thursday that Mike Barnicle, one of Imus’ “cronies” and a regular guest on the show, will take over the “Imus In The Morning” timeslot from 5-8 a.m., beginning Friday.Imus was on temporary suspension by CBS Radio after his firing at the hands of MSNBC, which simulcasts his radio show. But after 3:30 p.m. Thursday, CBS fired Imus.Imus has been embroiled in criticism after he referred to the mostly black Rutgers University women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos” after the team lost its bid for a national title.His remarks have outraged civil-rights advocates and women’s groups, and a number of national advertisers reportedly pulled ads from his radio talk show, which CBS syndicates to more than 70 stations around the U.S.Imus had a run of more than four decades as a national radio personality, during which he has been one of the most popular high-profile hosts. He reportedly was earning $8 million a year under his most recent contract with CBS Radio, and he had been on the Aspen airwaves for eight years, Barill said.
Barnicle is a former columnist for The Boston Globe, who left the newspaper in 1998 amid questions about some of his sources, according to news reports. He also drew criticism for comments he made on a Boston radio show in 2004.The Washington Post reported Thursday that Barnicle “described the interracial marriage of Janet Langhart and former defense secretary William Cohen as ‘Mandingo,’ a reference to a 1975 movie in which a black male slave and a white woman have sex. After the NAACP protested, Barnicle apologized on the air.” Locally, though, advertising agencies say they had not received a lot of calls from clients either way.”I’ve had no clients that I’m aware of who have even mentioned it,” Glenwood Springs ad man John Tindall said this week, adding: “I’ve had advertisers on that show ever since that station was on the air and will continue.”Michael Chandler, of the Chandler Marketing Co., said the same, and also said he thinks the calls for Imus’ head tend to come mainly from a certain group of “highly judgmental people.”I think people who tend to be judgmental jump right on this,” he said with a chuckle, but “people who have more perspective on human foibles … I don’t think they’re that … quick to fire somebody for something they said.”
KNFR’s Barill said no advertisers had called the station demanding Imus’ permanent removal from the air, or finding different time slots for their advertisements. One, she said, did ask to “take a little hiatus to see what the fallout is,” but she said mostly that fallout has been in favor of Imus, at least locally.”He’s an entertainer,” she said. “People like him.”Some local citizens believe Imus has been unfairly targeted.”That’s what he does,” said Aspen Times business manager Nancy Bobrow, a self-avowed 10-year fan of Imus.At the Zélé coffee shop, customers said they were not Imus listeners but were aware of the controversy, and they were split whether Imus should be shut down.”I support free speech, but that kind of sentiment is totally inappropriate,” said Aspenite Danby Seldin. “I think it’s totally justifiable to fire him. I think he’s a liability.”But Jack Boyle of Aspen said, “I don’t think he should have been fired. I think he should get a little bit of a spanking, and they did take him off the air for two weeks.”
Imus did no worse than a long list of rap musicians, said Boyle, who argued that “rappers degrade their own people” and questioned the condemnation of Imus.Lisa Bailey of Elizabeth said, “I think it was sexist, not racist,” and that she felt he should not be fired over the incident.”Local radio personality Michael Conniff said he felt Imus’ remarks were “part of a larger pattern” of such behavior, and that the most interesting thing about Imus’ comment was, “It wasn’t funny. If you’re funny you can say anything, and people know you’re not serious.”Conniff also noted that right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh once was fired from a broadcast position for making racially disparaging remarks about a sports figure. Conniff said such things happen to all radio commentators because “you’re gabbing all the time. It’s verbal diarrhea, stuff’s gonna come out wrong.”But when asked whether he thought Imus stepped over the line of radio propriety, Conniff said, “Oh, yeah, there is no doubt.”Barill said that she has no idea if the show’s format will remain the same under Barnicle’s lead, or whether Imus will appear as a guest on the show he once hosted, but noted, “Wouldn’t that make for fascinating radio? We’ll wait and see what happens. Tomorrow, we’ll all know.”John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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