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Don Imus, Pioneer of Radio Shock Jock Genre, Has Died

By Donovan Wilkins

Contributing Writer | Telegraph Local


Don Imus, one of the most controversial voices in radio history, has passed away at the age of 79. Imus ran the widely popular 3-hour morning show, “Imus in the Morning”, until its demise in March 2018. Don Imus was known for his outspoken views. Over the years, Imus had amassed a cult following for his show. Don Imus retired back in 2018. After being hospitalized on Christmas Eve, Imus was declared dead Friday morning at Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, Texas. The cause of Don Imus’ death was not announced.

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Don Imus started broadcasting back in 1968 with his first gig KUTY. Imus would soon go on to work at WNBC until 1977 when he was fired. Around 1988, Imus’ morning show began to gain worldwide popularity. Don Imus was inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1989. During the height of his career, Don Imus entertained some of the most prolific people including  Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Brack Obama, Rudy Guiliani, and many more. Imus’ radio show was known as an alternative place to hear views and politics not usually said on major stations. Don Imus changed the history of radio with the introduction of the term “shock jock”. 

Don Imus pioneered the shock jock type host into something that is widely used by many hosts today on various platforms. A shock jock, a radio personality who noted for provocative or inflammatory commentary, was something that describes Don Imus entirely. Imus gain his following by allowing no filter where anything went, no bias. Politicians saw the morning show as a way to expand upon their message and reach a larger audience. As his influence grew, Don Imus became a household name in the world of broadcasting. In 1997, Imus was named one of Time magazine’s “25 most influential people in America” and it showed. Advertising rates went through the roof to get a coveted spot on the radio show. Don Imus’ demographic tend to be educated men around the age of 25. As highly respected as Don Imus was, he wasn’t without scandal.

One of the biggest scandals to hit Don Imus’ career came in April 2007. While reviewing sports news, Don Imus made racists remarks in a voiceover against the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball team. Don Imus called the players “nappy-headed hoes”, describing their appearance. The aftermath of that situation sent ripples through the airwaves. Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton called for the removal of Don Imus’ morning show the next day.


As protests broke out all across the U.S., Don Imus issued two apologies in that time span. On April 9th, NBC and CBS Radio placed Don Imus on a two-week suspension. It would only be a few days later, on April 11, when MSNBC decided not to run Imus in the Morning. As sponsors broke free from Don Imus’ image, so did CBS Radio, who also decided not to run the popular morning show. In the aftermath, Don Imus signed a multi-year deal with Cumulus Media and Fox News to return to broadcast. Don Imus stayed on the air until his retirement in March 2018.


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