Imus Forum Brings Lots of Talk, Few Answers
I'm amazed and gratified that so many people took part in the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists public forum about race and gender in media post-Imus Thursday night.
But I, and many who attended, still left the building feeling a little dissatisfied -- as if we had an itch that wasn't quite scratched.
The panel was impressive: Bubba the Love Sponge, Sirius satellite radio; Victoria Lim, consumer reporter/anchor, WFLA-Ch. 8; Fisher, morning personality, WSUN-FM (97X); Leon Russell, former president of Florida NAACP;
Doug Wagenvoord, co-owner WTAN-AM (former local home for Imus); Ahmed Bedier, Council for American Islamic Relations; Jay Black, journalism ethics expert, University of South Florida; L.I.F.E., area spoken word artist; Birgit Van Hout, Community Tampa Bay; Leon Russell, national NAACP board member; DJ Ekin, mix show coordinator, WBTP-FM (The Beat); Carolyn Lighty, co-founder Tampabayin.com.
I think it's because we were so locked into our own perspectives, we couldn't bend much to the perspectives of others. And, as Birgit pointed out to me afterwards, bending too much means enabling or prolonging stuff that shouldn't stand, like Imus' racist humor.
Fisher talked about joking on his show about going to Ybor to "pick up some b----s," which drew lots of criticism. Fisher, backed by Vicki Lim, said his comment was a joke because it is the opposite of who he is. Others who didn't know him, felt his casual use of the term revealed exactly how he felt about women.
Still, we drew 75 people in an event organized and publicized in 10 days. And the sight of so many panelists networking after it was all over -- the Christian rappers hanging with the radio station owner, the spoken word artist hanging with the shock jock producer -- was still gratifying.
Read about it here. Check out a 6-minute report on WMNF-FM between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
When Jesse Jackson criticized the lack of minorities on MSNBC during the Don Imus flap, anchors there were quick to point out Allison Stewart, host of the noontime show The Most. So it is ironical to note that Stewart's now leaving the channel, becoming another TV news expatriate who has fled to National Public Radio.
To it's credit, NPR is responding to criticisms about its lack of diversity by trying to hire on air reporters of color, including former ABC News correspondent Michel Martin, News and Notes host Farai Chideya, and now Stewart. She joins Luke Burbank in fronting the new, two-hour morning show targeted to young listeners -- well, aged 25 to 44, which is young for NPR -- and the new 24-hour news servies, also for young-uns.
--- I'm appearing once again on Rob Lorei's WEDU show Florida This Week, kicking around issues such as Howard Dean's bluster about Florida moving its presidential primary and the release of jail inmates due to overcrowding in Pinellas.