Tuned In

Don Imus, R.F.D.

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A big part of me was hoping that Don Imus’ rumored return to the air would stay a radio and not a TV story, so that I could blissfully ignore it on Tuned In. But you write a cover story on the guy, and you have certain obligations. It’s the Pottery Barn rule of journalism.

And in a twist on the story in today’s New York Times, it turns out that Imus’ comeback–first reported by Matt Drudge to be planned for December on New York’s WABC radio–has a TV component after all. A farm-TV component. RFD-TV, a channel aimed at rural communities, is reportedly in talks to simulcast the show by sometime rancher Imus. Apparently the channel is less viewed than his former network MSNBC, if such a thing is possible.

I’ve said before that I’d rather see Imus dealt with by the market than by the paternalism of his employers; I thought his show was obnoxious and unfunny with or without the “nappy-headed hos” incident, but the only way to really send that message is for his fans, and his prominent guests, to decide that his swaggering-hombre act is played out.

But if you feel further punishment is in order, Imus would at least be returning to the air in appropriately reduced circumstances, without the vast CBS Radio network and a cable-news platform. (They’ll still back up the Brinks truck for him, I’m sure, but does anyone think it’s about the money for Imus at this point?) And whether he takes to the air chastened, or becomes a shock jock with a vengeance again, it will almost certainly–for the time being, anyway–be without the high-profile journalistic and political suckups who gave him the validation he so dearly craved.

Pundits and pols, after all, are two of the most cautious species on the planet, and now that it’s as safe to spurn Imus as it used to be to plug themselves and their books on his show, they’ll stay away. As I believe they say in the farm-TV business, you reap what you sow.