Putting things in perspective. Don Imus in the DC radio market. Despite all the Washington “power players” he has on his show, and all the press he gets, almost no one inside (or outside) the Beltway listens to him. In the latest Arbitrends, Imus, via Clear Channel talker WTNT, was tied for 25th place in morning drive with Fredericksburg country outlet WFLS. He posted a 0.6 share of the age 12+ demo, down almost 50 percent from his 1.0 share a year ago. His national cable TV audience is said to be less than 300,000. That’s the population of Loudoun County. Yes, I agree, what Imus said was in terrible taste. But, we must remember, this big controversy surrounds someone almost no one listens to.
From Sridhar Pappu’s piece in today’s Post, “For Don Imus’s Frequent Guests, A Moral Dilemma”:
“Will I go back on?” said Schieffer, who called Imus’s description of the team as “nappy-headed hos” indefensible. “If it were anyone else, I wouldn’t have anything to do with them. But I’m not going to sever a relationship with someone who has apologized for what he said. He’s my friend. I hate what he did, but he’s still my friend.”
Others can’t be so certain. This is particularly true of Newsweek (owned by The Washington Post Co.), which has a “cooperative” relationship with NBC and MSNBC. Several of the magazine’s writers have “contributor” contracts with the network. And while none have formal, paying gigs with Imus, Newsweekers including Jonathan Alter, Evan Thomas, Howard Fineman and top editor Jon Meacham have become frequent contributors. Newsweek now has its brand to consider in deliberating whether to allow its people to joust once again with the “I-Man.”
Although Imus has hosted some of Washington’s most famous figures on his show, ratings suggest that he’s actually a marginal figure among viewers and listeners in the region. But Imus’s show, which last year generated as much as $20 million in total revenue for flagship station WFAN in New York, is low-cost, high-revenue programming for MSNBC.