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.
This week the editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, gave testimony to Britain's home affairs select committee about the publication of information leaked by Edward Snowden over the summer. Bob talks with Rusbridger about why he was summoned before Parliment, and how the threat of prior restraint makes journalists in the UK function differently than their US counterparts.
William Tyler - Country of Illusion
The Electronic Privacy Information Center just won a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, requiring the federal agency to release documents about the so-called "internet kill switch." Bob speaks with EPIC's Julia Horwitz about the lengthy battle with DHS, and the difficulty in getting information out of the notoriously opaque agency.
"Revenge porn" is naked photos of people posted on the internet alongside personal information about them, like their phone numbers and Facebook profiles. There has been no higher-profile revenge porn profiteer than Hunter Moore, who ran the now-defunct website "Is Anyone Up." In this interview from 2011, Moore talks to Bob about his site and his lack of ethics.
Former baseball player Lenny "Dude" Dykstra has become a seemingly endless fount of stories for sports reporters who cover scandal. He's been arrested for grand theft auto and drug possession, declared bankruptcy, and been accused of bouncing a check to a prostitute. Philadelphia sports writer Frank Fitzpatrick has been covering Dykstra since before his fall from grace, and in an interview that originally aired in 2011, he talks to Bob about how sports writers can be complicit in the bad behavior of the athletes they cover.
The typical televised football game lasts about three hours. But according to a study by The Wall Street Journal, only 11 minutes of that time is actually devoted to live play. Bob Fishman is a game director for CBS Sports, the person who decides what home viewers see and when they see it. In an interview that originally aired in 2010, Fishman explains to Bob how he spends the other two hours and 49 minutes of a broadcast.
If an NFL announcer sounds like an omniscient know-er of all things football, it's because they've got a stats man in the booth feeding them info. 75-year-old Marty Aronoff is one of the best stats men in the business. Bob talks with Aronoff about stats and his 200 travel days a year getting to games.
Currently, a class-action suit by more than 4,000 former NFL players against the NFL is in the process of being settled. The issue? The players claim the league covered up a link between football and brain damage. Last year, Bob spoke with Mark Waller - the NFL’s Chief Marketing Officer - about public service announcements the league was running last year about head injuries.
The Infectious Texts project at Northeastern University is making thousands of pre-Civil War newspapers searchable. Bob talks with Ryan Cordell, a leader on the project, about the mechanism behind text virality in the 1800’s and some of what’s been discovered so far.
Black Keys - Psychotic Girl
On the same day of John F. Kennedy’s burial, a small gathering committed the remains of Lee Harvey Oswald to the ground. Apart from the immediate family, no mourners attended, leaving the task of carrying the coffin to a few assembled strangers: the reporters covering the story. Bob talks to retired Associated Press reporter Mike Cochran who was one of Oswald’s pallbearers.
Lúnasa - Black River
PEN American Center, a writers’ organization, released a report last week titled “Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives US Writers to Self-Censor.” The report found that, of the writers surveyed, a sizable percentage were censoring their work, or altering their writing process, due to fear of NSA surveillance. Bob talks to LA Times Book Critic David Ulin to find out what freedom of expression really means if our thinkers are constantly looking over their shoulders.
Bach - Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major
A new radio documentary titled We Knew JFK: Unheard Stories from the Kennedy Archives airs on public radio stations across the country, timed to the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. The documentary showcases anecdotes from people who worked with JFK and knew him personally. Bob speaks to Robert MacNeil, of MacNeil/Lehrer fame, the host and co-writer of the documentary, about JFK's nuanced relationship with journalists.
Last weekend, a small group of women in the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held a meeting at a restaurant in a Dallas suburb. In the parking lot outside a group of men women and children wielding assault rifles held a pro-gun demonstration, saying they were exercising their First Amendment rights. Bob speaks to Slate's Dahlia Lithwick about the rise of Open Carry demonstrations, and whether carrying a gun qualifies as free speech.
Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and countless books, articles, television specials and made for TV movies will no doubt commemorate the event. Bob speaks with Reason.com editor Nick Gillespie about how the media fascination with the fallen president has less to do with his impact on the country and more to do with the Baby Boomer generation's feeling of self-importance.
We’ve become accustomed in the past 20 years to seeing the issue of guns in America broken down into two camps: gun control advocates — led by police chiefs and Sarah Brady — and the all-powerful National Rifle Association. In an interview that originally aired in December of last year, Bob talks to Adam Winkler, author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms In America, who says there was a time, relatively recently, in fact, when the NRA Supported gun control legislation, and the staunchest defenders of so-called "gun rights" were on the radical left.
Emiliana Torrini - Dead Duck
This week saw a couple of attempts at explaining journalistic mistakes. The first was a terse apology from 60 minutes over a botched report on the Benghazi compound attack in 2012. The second was a re-examination of The New York Times decision to delay publication of an article warrantless wire tapping for over a year. Bob examines both of these stories - and how each outlet handled them.
Jim James - All is Forgiven
Chris Christie. Hillary Clinton. Rand Paul. Ted Cruz. Elizabeth Warren. This week saw a sharp spike in speculation for who would be President in 2017. Bob talks with the New York Times Magazine's Mark Leibovich about the media's fascination with hypothetical primaries three years away.
Young Marble Giants - Final Day
When news outlets pay for exclusive access to a story it’s called 'checkbook journalism.' The Washington Post's Paul Farhi just reported about two recent cases of NBC News doing just that. Bob speaks with Farhi about the ethical problems raised by paying for news exclusives.
Over a century before the rise of the Nigerian email scam, there was the "Spanish Prisoner" Letter, a scam which bears a striking resemblance to the emails that still dupe people today. Bob talks to historian Robert Whitaker, who wrote about "Spanish Prisoner" letters in the history journal The Appendix.
This week the 75th Anniversary of War of the Worlds passed by and the press recounted the familiar story of a nation plunged into panic by Orson Welles and the growing power of radio. Turns out, it’s much more complicated than that. Bob talks with Professor Michael Socolow, who says tales of nation-wide panic are overblown and can be traced to a nervous newspaper industry and faulty scholarship. Socolow and Jefferson Pooley wrote about War of the Worlds in Slate this week.
This week's Obamacare troubles came in the form of media challenging the oft repeated claim by the administration that if you like your health insurance policy, you can keep it. Bob talks to Washington Post writer, and author of The Fact Checker blog Glenn Kessler about why the "you can keep it" claim was so misleading, and why the media are just now getting around to correcting it.