The Evening News Report: "We've Got Imus Fatigue Too, But Bear With Us" Edition

(AP)
I really, really didn't want to write about Don Imus today. As anyone who hasn't been living under a rock will tell you, the story has been covered, rehashed, and analyzed to death over the past week. (By the way, when was the last time a phrase – that would be "nappy headed hos," of course – went from invisible to ubiquitous so quickly? Suddenly "show me the money" doesn't seem all that bad.)

This is the Evening News Report, however, and last week the "Evening News" was consistently focused on Imus – well, except for that detour down to Raleigh for the Duke story. The then-growing scandal was covered extensively on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the week, every new development treated as significant news.

It's easy to say that the story was over-covered, and not just on CBS News. But it's not like there wasn't a lot going on here: Three words uttered by a radio host may be relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but the firestorm they set off – and what they revealed about our culture – are not.

Most of the coverage of the story on the "Evening News" stuck to the basics concerning the latest developments in the case. That's understandable: This is a show that airs every day, in a relatively short time period, and there isn't a lot of time to explore cultural issues that aren't easy to get a handle on. Sometimes just getting the facts out clearly is enough.

But with all the airtime the Imus story ate up, it would have been great to see issues like the following addressed: Why did these particular words cause such a firestorm, when Imus has said plenty of offensive things in the past? What does the scandal say about the state of race relations, the ritual of public apology, and the predilections of the media in this country? Are there double standards at play in what is permissible for different members of society, and are they or aren't they fair?

Nancy Cordes' Friday piece briefly touched on a few of these issues, following the comments of Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, but they did not get an in-depth hearing.

There are ways to try to get at questions like this: After the Monica Lewinsky story broke, for example, then-CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg turned out a piece on the media story behind the national scandal. The piece, which you can watch by clicking on the link, spoke to how the news business was changing in the age of the Internet, and the repercussions of that change.

There are, to be sure, also reasons to avoid going beyond the basics: Stories like Imus touch off seemingly unceasing arguments without easy answers, and it's tough to explore larger issues in cases like this without being seen, rightly or not, as coming down on one side or the other.

But Engberg's piece is a blueprint for how the larger questions can be explored, and the Imus story is exactly the kind that calls for such exploration. I know the "Evening News" folks have discussed if and when they want to take on these questions, and perhaps this week, now that the story has slowed down and they've had a chance to step back, they will take the opportunity to do so.

A quick final note: I wanted to mention Lara Logan's excellent Friday interview with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, which featured Musharraf using some strong language and addressing serious issues head on. You can watch it by clicking on the video box.