Bob’s long, highly decorated radio career comes to an end, but not before he gets the last word. He’s not leaving the stage altogether. He is, however, setting fire to the curtains.
Thanks for such a thorough explanation of what went down with OTM and WNYC. Although I had no inside information -- until now -- the scenario you've delineated was pretty much what I suspected. As I wrote to OTM at the time, "You can't fire the sharpest blade in OTM's tool box and expect the show to remain remotely as good," and that's exactly what happened. Where I used to tune in every week with quasi-religious fervor, I now rarely listen. The world and our country seem to be plummeting into the abyss, and absent your voice screaming in such scalding, perfectly-composed, it's-funny-but-I-just-can't-laugh outrage ... we'll, fuck it -- I'd rather listen to a ball game. You were the best WNYC and NPR had to offer, and I'm very sorry that TBP didn't generate enough $ to keep going -- but hey, if it was driving you into the grave, then something had to give. I look forward to reading what you'll write in the future. Thanks for all these years of such smart, slashing, entertaining commentary and analysis -- and especially for that wonderful episode when you went down to Nashville to write a country song ... and pulled it off. That one, I'll never forget. Wishing you a return to good health, and all the best!
I'm very sorry not to be hearing your voice anymore, though I'll enjoy your blogging very much. Sorry also for your health issues, particularly as a fellow senior. But many thanks for at last giving us your answer to the question we've all been wondering about for so long.
I, for one, really, really liked OTM for the clash of Brooke's calm mama and your outraged papa. It made for supremely tasty listening. I guessed that it might have been difficult for you to work together, but now it's sad to hear that IRL you really! didn't! like! each other at all...
Well, all the best with your medical and legal matters and whatever comes next for you.
Oh, I get it, Bob. You were the office asshole! Every good newsroom has one, and the great ones cherish them. Of course, in the interest of civility, these abrasive voices are usually referred to as "lovable curmudgeons," but we all know that's horseshit. They're the office assholes. They point out the little hypocrisies management wants overlooked, they are caustic and sometimes go over the line, but only to test just where the line is at the moment. The young reporters who are truly destined to go places both fear and admire them, and secretly hope someday to be them.
A newsroom without an office asshole is like...well, like OTM as it exists today. A one-armed paperhanger. You and Brooke were a great team, probably because you didn't get along. Now I'm hearing the shows padded with more and more repeats--sorry, I mean "encore presentations"--and they clearly don't have the staff to produce a full weekly hour, so old interviews are being repurposed. Had another mass shooting this week? Hey, we interviewed a guy a couple years ago, let's plug that one in...
During my decades at mid-sized Florida papers, I had the pleasure of working with one lovable curmudgeon who used to bemuse the idealistic young interns by urging them to always remember The Three Great Rules of Journalism:
1.) The most popular use of a day-old newspaper is to line a birdcage.
2.) No one remembers who won the Pulitzer last year.
3.) The most famous story ever published in an American newspaper begins, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."
Anyway, Bob, please stay angry, be healthy and keep writing. You asshole.
I really will miss your podcast, even though I occasionally posted a negative comment. What set your podcast apart, even from shows where I agree with just about everything, is that your podcasts came out of your own curiosity. The internet, and the media in general are just loaded with box tickers.
Also, if an employer can get away with attacking someone for needing orthopedic surgery, we should all just give up. That's about the clearest violation of "reasonable accommodation" that I can imagine.
Bob, you were the reason I supported OTM (and ceased to do the minute you were fired). Your shows had sophisticated breadth and far-reaching insights. A lot of them treated international stories that shed a piercing light on what was happening back in our failed dis-United states. Your final Pittsburgh piece was brilliant - I encourage everyone to listen. When I heard the barebones story of your "termination" I suspected something along the lines that you have laid out. When I heard Brooke's smug summation, that was it - I'm afraid I have no longer listened to OTM. Ageism, rigidity, self-righteousness, that is what I heard, with dismay. We are all only human. In my opinion, they threw out the baby (your brilliance) with the bathwater (your bad temper). Wishing you a very speedy recovery, much sympathy, and a lot more great writing, which I look forward to reading.
Jesus Christ, Bob. What a pile of crap. Good luck with the legal stuff. “That’s how I manage.” Outrageous horseshit. And “Fuck you, Brooke,” indeed.
I often point to the OTM show on "cancel culture" that aired about a month after your firing as possibly the very worst episode of OTM I had ever heard. Mainly for letting one advocate speak uncontested while making some tenuous claims, and clipping one of the most salient arguments from a Black professor who was very concerned about it, a familiar one because Brooke invoked it all the time: the chilling/silencing effect from fear of retribution.
But I just realized how much more audacious it was to air such a topic a month after your firing: To deny cancel culture exists a month after literally cancelling an intellectually honest dissenting view in their newsroom. Over the past year there have been more than a few episodes I've just stopped listening to. It's all become too predictable, and I can't expect any fresh arguments or depth on a topic that I haven't read/heard somewhere else. This week's show had a hot take on the Depp/Heard trial, fercrhisssake.
Wow, sorry to hear (but somehow not entirely surprised based on her holier-than-thou on-air vibe) that you got hosed ... (pause for effect) by Brooke.
Sounds like you were trapped within the very definition of a toxic workplace. Plus you committed the unpardonable sin of getting old and being better at your job than your younger colleagues, which (in my recent experience) is a very, very bad thing to do. I hope you will continue to be read and heard widely. I've been a big fan of your work since even before you said something nice in Ad Age about a Chevrolet spot I wrote. Best wishes, David
Bob, you have always been a lighthouse to me. I first started listening to your show when I was an impressionable journalism student - in the Pleistocene era of modern media (sometime in the early 90s). Every week, it filled me with the world I wanted to be part of - a dispatch from the engine room an idealized version of journalism. You (and Brooke) were John Madden to me, but more erudite, and less sporty.
I gave up journalism before the shit disarmed the fan, and moved over to making stuff - not just writing about it. I then made a lot of lucrative stuff. And had the good fortune of meeting you in Cannes about ten years ago - during a particularly difficult time in my life. You were a cranky, bearded, incisive personality. And a great guy. You were gentle, generous, without judgement, fiercely smart, and funny. You also gave me grace to work out my own shit.
You were the Jewish uncle I always wished I had. I know we don't have a close friendship, but I am really happy we know each other.
After reading your post, I can only offer up my company. Anytime. From one (semi)rugged Jew to another. You are a mensch. And I adore you.
Very sorry to hear about all the troubles you faced, both professionally and medically. It's been thoroughly enjoyable (and when the topic was not enjoyable, then it was always cathartic), and when you moved from OTM to BP, yours was the first podcast among dozens that I've listened to over the years that I actually supported. I will miss hearing it dearly. Health comes first however, and I hope yours is only going to get better!
A great read. Very sad to hear some of it, of course, esp the parts about Brooke. You guys always had such a nice vibe on air.
Must have been like hearing a ghost.
Makes me a little queasy myself, but I can't overemphasize how happy I am that it was a mere error, and not a sign that I have to deal with those awful people ever again.
There are few people I know who possess a higher level of integrity, wisdom, and humor than you, Bob. You'd figure I would know more by now, but I don't. Before we had a chance to speak about the WNYC fiasco, I knew it was bullshit, so to see you finally bare your soul about the matter here was a tremendous relief. There is a fair amount of pain in your words, but working through it to find the truth is one of the many things that you continue to do better than anyone - especially true when you’re the subject of the story. But that's what great writers do, and that's worth and fighting for. There is also much to celebrate here, Bob, and I am left with an underlying optimism about what’s next for you. This isn’t over, pal. Not by a longshot. Yes, the good news is your column will continue, but we have things to discuss, and I'm buying the first round.
I stopped listening to OTM the moment they fired you, Bob. I just felt the smugness had become too much to take, and I couldn't take it anymore without your aggrieved and ornery voice in the mix. Best of luck with the column, and whatever else you do next. I'll stay tuned.
Be well; and my best wishes for good fortune. I will miss the podcasts . . . A justifiable angry voice in the midst of Pollyannas. You should be immensely proud that you foresaw, anticipated, and spoke out early against the danger and disaster of Donald Trump. Your previous professional colleagues will have to live with their shame.
You are greatly missed at OTM, Bob. (By the listeners, anyway.) It's just not the same without you, whether the firing was justified or not, or even something in between.
It certainly sounds like signing on without management status and while working from a different city were serious strategic errors (or, if they couldn't be avoided, then at least disadvantages). On that foundation, it was only a matter of time till working with people you didn't get along with in a major way resulted in your departure.
Anyway, I wish you the best of luck, both professionally and personally, as well as the best health a disintegrating body can provide.
(And, good lord, I hope your using the word "extortion" in this piece doesn't come back to haunt you. I'm guessing your lawyer really, really wishes you'd run this blog entry by him prior to posting.)