Thursday, March 23, 2006

Business vs.The Golden Rule

-All right...There's a fine line you must walk when you are trying to do "the right thing". It appears the management at KTRS is stomping all over the place while trying to walk it. Either that, or there are some serious questions that need to be asked in the wake of yesterday's Dave Lenihan incident.

As I said yesterday, I think Tim Dorsey...or whoever, individually or collectively, called the shot on firing Dave Lenihan for his on-air faux pas...pretty much had to do it for business reasons. Allowing that sore to fester with Lenihan still doing a daily show was not going to make any business sense. This is a company that..A) is trying to get into the business of major league baseball B) is trying to finally sell itself as a dominant "player" in the market's radio wars, and C) needs to right it's public relations ship after the "Black Friday" firings of most of it's on-air staff in December. The Lenihan black eye would have continued to darken...not heal. And salespeople don't need that sort of distraction or hurdle while trying to convince an ad agency or prospective advertiser to sign on the dotted line. Radio sales is tough enough. That doesn't even take into account the PR kick-in-the-crotch the Cardinals stood to take as a new part of the station's ownership.

Having said that, Mr. Dorsey's on-air comments, and subsequent television interviews, came off to me as somewhat disingenuous. While I understand that TV reporters tend to use only the soundbites that make someone look bad, Tim seemed to not even allow for the possibility that Lenihan's utterance could have just been...a mistake. There was total judgment of Lenihan's intentions...and no empathy toward him as a human who could have had a "human moment". Unless Lenihan confessed to Dorsey that he had planned the thing as a publicity stunt, TD would not be in a position to be that unequivocal...certainly not within twenty minutes of it happening. If Lenihan did confess to some sort of subterfuge, then Dorsey should have said that and taken the onus off himself. At least one on-air host on another station I was listening to this morning takes it a step farther with a conspiracy theory in which the whole thing was a publicity stunt akin to the "birds on the billboards". Seems unlikely.

But also tasteless to me is the willingness of the station's hosts (at least their morning hosts) to "pile on" Dave Lenihan. The station is fielding calls, and using the situation as fodder for it's format. All the while, the hosts plead to the listener that "Dave Lenihan's comment is not what we're all about. Puh-leassse don't judge us by what the guy that we fired said. Larry..You're on the air... Do you have a comment about what he said?" If you're not about what he said, then don't let what he said continue to perpetuate itself on your air.

It begins to look for all the world like someone in the hierarchy is saying..."Hey, let's milk this for a while since it looks like the rest of the media is enjoying making us look bad. As long as we're getting our call letters on TV...what the heck. And think of all the radios being tuned to 550. We can slough off all the blame on the guy we fired and ride this 'til it dies for a possible spike in the ratings". It sure appears that they are willing to allow the incident to become a ratings-getter, which would eventually mean a money-maker. If that's anywhere close to being true, someone should be ashamed.

What should have been done to take the high road? Fire Lenihan. Tell the television and newspaper interviewers that Lenihan likely misspoke, but that KTRS can't be put in the position of apologizing for him. Then say...It's over...period. Then you don't talk about it on the air, or anywhere else. You let it die. By doing so, you allow the man you fired to have some claim to his dignity. To continue to drag him through the slop is unprofessional, unseemly and mercenary.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the staff at KTRS are talking about it...it's NEWS! Lenihan isn't helping his cause by showing up on every media outlet in the country, including Howard Stern. Most media types who don't want to be branded as a racist would issue a blanket statement & lie low until it blows over, not shine a flashlight on himself. If he hadn't, he might have kept his teaching job.

If the KTRS gang hadn't commented on it, they would be branded cowards or something for trying to sweep it under the rug. They can't win in this situation.

Anonymous said...

they clearly win in my book. we live in a world were it is ok to be racist again, even overtly. we see it in cartoons (ie south park, family guy, american dad, ect). we hear it on air. and it's even to the point where white people think they can make lewd and racist comments to black people face to face these days with no recourse. it's good to see that there are some institutions that are taking it seriously. the more people that condone it or try to deminish the situation the more racism will continue in this country. this was a sample right in peoples faces and many still are trying to make excuses for him. it's good management didn't.

Anonymous said...

He was trying to say "boon" not coup :she would be a big boon to business and it came out coon. the strange thing is that he was conscience of the mistake. i don't use that word. I would think it was a word error and correct myself, coon, boon to .... By drawing attention to it, he outed himself as someone would ever use that kind of language. especially the giggling. kind of like a mexican calling an american "gringo"All Mexicans in the room will snicker.

They were just raised that it is funny. no harm intended. Clear it up by not raising kids to be racist or think it is funny to be different

Anonymous said...

BTW, regarding the first comments, Lenihan was awakened by Howard Stern at 5:30am. Not the same as calling Stern to get more publicity.

I personally think Dorsey fired Lenihan to save his own ass. Lenihan would do better to get out of the business altogether. Radio these days sucks. Big time.

Ian Hough said...

I work in radio and this sort of thing is my worst nightmare. I love my job and the people I work with. It's my dream job. I understand having to fire him, but I don't think it was intentional. People misspeak all the time.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Howard Stern...yes, perhaps it was Howard who contacted Lenihan. Still, that doesn't mean you have to go on the air with him, let alone go on after JUST waking up. If he is crying foul because this won't go away, HE is as much to blame as KTRS or any other media.

Bill Kerwin said...

I listened to the clip of Lenihan on "Crooks and Liars," and I am convinced that his comments were completely intentional, that he deliberately uttered "a slip of the tongue" and then immediately apologized, so that he could gratify the racists in his audience without suffering any negative consequences.

I can't prove this, but I urge you to listen to the clip yourself. Pay close attention to the rhythm of his voice and the way its upbeat tone never changes; notice how his apologetic second mention of the word "coon" is as cheery and forthright as his first, and how his statements about being sorry sound breezy, automatic (I would say pre-planneed) and completely insincere.

Lenihan is not only a racist, but a coward, and his firing is completely justified on moral as well as on pragmatic grounds.

Randy Raley said...

If you are doing middays in market 19 and you don't know you have a 7 second delay button, then the business is heading the same direction as KTRS' reputation. The word "dump" didn't enter into the conversation. Have I said stupid, regretful things on the air? Yes. But I never pointed them out, I moved on and no one noticed. It's called being a "broadcaster". You are supposed to be trained to handle situations. No training? No idea what to do. It's obvious. Everyone thinks they can be a "jock" and when management hires these poeple, they get "jocks' instead of "broadcasters". There is a difference.