Monday, April 23, 2007

New Viral Media Culture Dethrones King Of Talk

Take a good look at my picture. Go ahead. See. I wear a full set of ‘nappy hair’ on my head. Frankly, that gives me the full right to be grateful that the overbearing Don Imus was fired and that the subsequent public outcry assures that if he ever lands in front of a microphone again, his language will not be so inflammatory.

Don Imus was the king of talk radio. When I lived in Boston in the late eighties to mid-nineties, his off-the-cuff remarks were a the first thing people discussed as they waited in line at the donut and coffee shop at Boylston Street. I could never understand the fascination. Slurs on race and gender were all too common. Were they funny? No. For me, it was bigotry at its worst being passed as comedy and that cut closely to the very essence of my identity.

Still, what was fascinating for me last week was not only the issue of censorship, language and the media but also the power of our new viral media culture. It was this that fanned the blaze of anger that eventually toppled Don Imus.

Here is how it was reportedly played out. A 26-year old from the liberal group Media Matters posts a video clip of Imus’ remarks on the group’s web site and also puts it up on You Tube.

Media Matters also sent emails to journalists and women’s groups. Young black journalists were among the first to demand that the 68-year old be ousted. They were quickly joined by women’s groups who sent out action alerts encouraging the public to flood CBS and NBC with a ‘Dump Don,’ message.

As Newsweek reported, Imus, armed only with a microphone, a relic from another age, could not keep with the new technology. In the end, WOMM (word of mouth marketing) won.

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