Sing When You’re Winning


It’s a talk radio station’s dream – a Major News Story breaking in the middle of an otherwise mundane Sunday night. Wherever you are in the world, your audience wants to hear about this : the death of Osama Bin Laden. So, after digesting some of the early coverage on the BBC and Sky, I thought the next best place to get reaction from would be New York City.

There are any number of newstalk stations in the United States, but one of the most famous is WABC in New York. It’s Breakfast Show host, Don Imus, is arguably the original shock jock : plain speaking and unashamedly right wing. But before Imus, I catch the end of the Early Show, hosted by Doug McIntyre. He’s a native New Yorker, so finding out that the man who masterminded 9/11 has been killed is something to shout about.

There’s a reasonably informative two-way interview with Tom Rivers, ABC’s London Correspondent, who helpfully informs Doug that today is a Bank Holiday in the UK, so apparently we’re all still in bed at 10.30am. “Kinda feels like a national holiday here, you know. I wouldn’t normally be happy about somebody dying, but this is different. It’s a great day for us all.”

And however uncomfortable that might sound, he’s got the mood of the nation about right. This was the scene in Washington captured by a friend of mine.

The White House just after Bin Laden's death was announced

WABC has even managed to get a jingle specially made too :

“You’ve waited a long time for this : celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden – 77WABC”

And this is where Imus comes in. He knows how to rile an audience, and hasn’t been shy in attacking pretty much everything President Obama has done since he came to office. Yet this morning he seems strange on-side with him, even if he can’t resist a guarded dig.

“So much for Obama being a Muslim sympathiser, huh? Found his in a cul de sac in Islamabad – do we have any photographs of him?”

For such a huge story, Imus seems a little unprepared to handle these events. His newscaster Charles McCord stumbles through various foreign place names, referring to the place Bin Laden was found as “that town”, after failing miserably to get it right first time.

Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t sell itself as intelligent radio. It’s pure entertainment. Of course, with broadcasting laws here, this show would never get to air on a UK station. And that’s upset some, who think that free speech should mean just that, and we should ditch our impartiality laws. Personally I think the novelty would soon wear off. not least after hearing this priceless bit of must-know news from Imus’s Producer Bernard McGuirk.

“Osama Bin Laden and Adolf Hitler were declared dead on May 1st.”

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