Bob Garfield is the co-host of On the Media
Bob Garfield isn’t exactly a media whore, but he’s extremely promiscuous.
Apart from On the Media, Bob has been a columnist for 30-plus years, at the moment on the subjects of media and marketing for The Guardian and MediaPost. In the world of marketing he is an institution, like the Red Cross. Or San Quentin.
When not casting broadly, Bob casts podly, with former OTM producer Mike Vuolo on the insanely popular Slate language program “Lexicon Valley.” In print, Bob has been a contributing editor for the Washington Post Magazine, Civilization and the op-ed page of USA Today. He has also written for The New York Times, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Atlantic and Wired and been employed variously by ABC, CBS, CNBC and the defunct FNN as an on-air analyst. As a lecturer and panelist, he has appeared in 37 countries on six continents, including such venues as the Kennedy Center, the U.S. Capitol, the Rainbow Room, the Smithsonian, Circus Circus casino, the Grand Ole Opry, the U.N., Harvard University, Princeton University and, memorably, a Thai Kickboxing ring in Cape Town, South Africa.
He is the author of five books, most recently Can’t Buy Me Like. His first book, Waking Up Screaming from the American Dream, was published by Scribner in 1997, favorably reviewed and quickly forgotten. His 2003 manifesto on advertising, And Now a Few Words From Me, is published in six languages (although, admittedly, one is Bulgarian). His 2009 crackpot screed The Chaos Scenario, about the supposed collapse of mass media and advertising, has all come true. Garfield co-wrote “Tag, You’re It,” a snappy country song performed by Willie Nelson, and wrote an episode of the short-lived NBC sitcom “Sweet Surrender.” It sucked.
David Letterman, who boasts the longest tenure of a late night host on broadcast TV, announced his retirement. The news was quickly followed by the announcement of his replacement – Stephen Colbert. Brooke and Bob discuss the problems of bringing a comedian so associated with the political left onto network television, and the loss of a national satire icon.
How the new Oscar Pistorius Trial Channel - a pop up satellite-TV channel that covers the court proceedings 24/7 - has irrevocably altered the South African media landscape.
Every year on or around April 13th, Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, has celebrated by issuing Jefferson Muzzles. These are booby prizes, awarded to individuals and institutions who act against Mr. Jefferson's admonition that freedom of speech “cannot be limited without being lost.” Bob speaks with Josh Wheeler, director of the Center, about this year's chief offenders.
The deadline for signing up for Obamacare was this week, and the White House says it has reached its projected number of 7 million new enrollees. But how accurate is that claim? Bob talks with Glenn Kessler, who writes for the Washington Post's Fact Checker blog, about what we know and don't know about the ACA's numbers.
Dmitry Kiselyov is a Russian television host and head of Russia's state news agency, a role he was appointed to by Vladimir Putin himself in December. That role has prompted the EU to issue sanctions against Kiselyov for being a "central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine." Bob speaks with the Committee to Protect Journalists' Joel Simon about the dangerous precedent set by punishing propagandists.
With the official enrollment deadline for the Affordable Care Act approaching, the Obama Administration is trying every which way to get the message out. This effort ranges from ordinary TV ads, to quirkier celeb-filled spoofs, to testimonials from YouTube celebrities. Bob speaks to Joe Rospars, CEO and Co-Founder of Blue State Digital, who served as the principal digital strategist for both of Obama’s campaigns, about capturing the attention of the ever-elusive “young invincibles.”
While Russia annexed Crimea with scarcely a shot fired, the crisis has grown heated between cartographers. An editing war broke out on Wikipedia's map of Russia, and National Geographic sparked outrage by suggesting it would map Crimea as Russian territory once the Kremlin made it official. Bob talks with Michael Blanding, author of the forthcoming book The Map Thief, about how map-making by nature is a risky geopolitical game.
Brooke and Bob read a few of your letters and comments.
What happened in Kiev was a Nazi coup, says the Russian Foreign Ministry, and it’s high time they liberate the Crimeans from the Ukrainian fascists. Why are the Russian people buying this story?
When an earthquake sent tremors through Los Angeles this week, an algorithm called Quakebot allowed the LA Times to release the news faster than any other media outlet. Bob talks with Nick Diakopoulos, a Tow Fellow at Columbia Journalism School, about what reporters should keep in mind as algorithms increasingly play a role in newsrooms.
The seemingly arcane business of running the web recently made headlines when the United States government agreed to cede control of the Internet's global address book, also known as the Domain Name System (DNS). Bob talks with Bloomberg Businessweek's Brendan Greeley about the move and the future of internet governance.
The NSA has defended its controversial surveillance program by arguing that it just collects metadata, and therefore doesn't violate the privacy of individual Americans. But computer scientists at Stanford Security Lab have conducted their own simulation of the NSA's program, and found the metadata to be inherently revealing. Bob speaks with Jonathan Mayer, one of the researchers on the project, about how much can be learned just from the numbers.
Trigger warnings on the internet have been around for years as a way to prepare for potentially disturbing subjects. Recently a group of students at the University of California, Santa Barbara passed a resolution imploring administrators to include mandatory trigger warnings in potentially offensive syllabi. Bob speaks to journalist Jenny Jarvie, about the spread of the trigger warning.
From terrorism to catastrophic structural failure to alien tractor beams, theories on the vanishing jetliner have come fast and furious. And one after another, they have themselves disappeared into nothingness. Bob reflects on how a story that lacks not only the “why,” but also the “what,” gets covered in the news.
With more than 240 million active users engaged in activities ranging from abetting revolutions to reporting tornadoes, Twitter’s cultural impact can’t be denied. But can we use it to chart how we actually communicate, not just with our own cohorts, but the world outside? Bob talks to Pew Research Center's Lee Rainie about mapping the informational ecosystem of Twitter.
Somewhere at the edge of our heliosphere, billions of miles from Earth, the Voyager 1 spacecraft carries the sounds of a few musicians from our planet into the interstellar void. It also carries a legacy of extraterrestrial copyright law. Bob talks with The New Yorker's music critic Alex Ross about the nature of intergalactic intellectual property.
Despite the seizure of their office and most of their files and equipment by masked gunmen, the journalists at the Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism were prepared: over the weekend they had backed up their entire web history through the Archive-It service from the Internet Archive. David E. Kaplan, executive director of the Global Investigative Journalism Network and one of the coordinators of the effort, tells Bob just how they managed to pull it off. You can check out what they've saved here and here.
Abby Martin, an anchor for the Kremlin-funded news channel Russia Today, launched herself into the headlines this week by sternly denouncing Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. On her show Breaking The Set, she said: “Just because I work here, for RT, doesn't mean I don't have editorial independence and I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in sovereign nations' affairs. What Russia did is wrong.” Given that RT is widely regarded as a 24-hour propaganda machine engineered to polish Russia’s image abroad, Martin shocked many with her outburst. Bob talks with Martin about why she wasn't afraid to speak out.