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Rutgers Team Is an Instrument for Change | The Nation

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Rutgers Team Is an Instrument for Change

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This article was originally published by The Women's Media Center.

About the Author

Carol Jenkins
Carol Jenkins, a writer and producer, is an Emmy award winning former television anchor and correspondent, and...

C. Vivian Stringer, the coach of the Imus-defamed college basketball team, got it exactly right this morning on the CBS Early Show, calling her young women an "instrument of change." As the story develops, more and more cogs in the Imus machine are examined. Today, money and media get their turn under the bright lights.

The Wall Street Journal weighed in as several sponsors--Proctor and Gamble and Staples among them, pulled their advertising from the Imus show. The New York Times took a closer look at Imus's financial clout--generating, sources seem to indicate, more than $50 million dollars a year for CBS and MSNBC; Imus himself reportedly just signed a five-year, $10 million a year contract. The question raised was whether or not the proposed meeting with ten young women in New Jersey could save this multimillion-dollar empire--not only for Imus, but also for CBS and MSNBC. The whole concept of girl power takes on new dimensions.

The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, a 200,000 member African American women's organization, stepped up the pressure yesterday. They joined the call for the Imus team to be fired and also asked all members to divest themselves of any CBS, NBC and related companies' stock, which would include NBC partner Microsoft. Its action followed requests from other groups to boycott sponsors remaining in the Imus rotation.

As for the media, it can be partially blamed for gushing over the team members after their news conference between classes at Rutgers yesterday. The fact that America seemed to be astonished that they are articulate and smart is another tragedy, one the media participates in crafting every day as it perpetuates stereotypes by refusing to tell the real stories of women and girls.

Being ill-informed no doubt led the hapless Imus down his path of ill-advised comments--and yesterday he seemed to be digging himself deeper in the trench by suggesting that he hadn't called the women anything they and other black women aren't called by African American men. That's a story the media loves. Repeatedly yesterday African American spokespersons were asked "What about the rappers--why don't you do anything about them?" One response was on the mark: We try, but can't get media coverage--no one is interested. They are interested in Imus.

Mainstream media seems to have little interest in telling the good stories.

As team captain Essence Carson asked yesterday--where was the media when the team was making history, and why did it take an insult to bring them the attention they deserved? To hear the surprised praise being heaped on these young women is almost as upsetting as Imus' remarks--the world seemed to expect so little, to know so little about accomplishment in the black community.

And, of course, the roving eye of breaking news turns itself on the media giants so hungry for this story--as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson repeatedly point out, as they have for years, the networks' failure in achieving diversity. One recent report puts the percentage of network stories on the evening news covered by minorities at 15 percent. Less and less do we see minorities, especially women, in high profile positions.

The story is gaining speed, rather than dissipating. If this works out as it should, there are more men in cowboy hats than Imus who should be worried.

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