Bob Garfield’s Long Hard Goodbye

By Matt Van Hoven 

If you’ve got the time, Bob Garfield needs it for his 3,000 word sign-off. AdReview, Garfield’s column for the last 25 years, is deceased &#151 a victim of the times, the Web, and the realization that its columnist should have been charging more for his opinion. Ain’t that the truth. The sign-off is what you’d expect, with a few admissions and a well-aimed snipe or two.

It was bound to happen one way or another and in the clumsy world of journalism it’s better to be the one to bow out than to wait for the inevitable. There’s a nagging reality of writing for money &#151 eventually, you’ve got to get a real job. And so Garfield will now use his experience in a consulting capacity. He “will be forming partnerships with three or four organizations for the purpose of selling to marketers what I’ve been dispensing gratis for decades.” He’ll pen “Listenomics” too. Still not too sure what to expect with that.

In the short time AgencySpy has been part of the picture, we’ve had a certain hidden respect for the Garfields; the Barbara Lipperts &#151 the people whose editorial voices pierced the oft-sanitized news that ran beside their critiques. In the world of news there isn’t a more truthful story than the critique. The straightest news story is encumbered by the lifetime of experiences folded into each source’s memory. With the critique, life experience is valued. Where news assumes the writer and his sources will cease to be human for the sake of the story, critiques welcome life. So in a way AgencySpy has the critique to thank as we are a derivative, of sorts.

Not surprisingly, Garfield doesn’t share the feeling. “What is paramount is being an honest broker of your own judgments, and never succumbing to the temptation of skewing negative for the sake of a cheap punchline. If you wish to see what happens when this principle is ignored, spend five minutes reading the ad blogs or Gawker. They are intermittently amusing, deliberately mean and ethically bankrupt.”

Since arguing with Garfield would be cheap, we’ll let him have this one. We wouldn’t want to make a punchline of his life’s work &#151 he’s only 55, after all. We will say that in a world full of words parading as news, we’re happy to be amusing.

The tone of his piece, and the 1,200 word note from AdAge proper (Ann Forbes Cooper), is sad. The departure says something about what you want, as readers. The publication let go of a pillar, a guy who could make or break your day in a thousand words (or less) &#151 arguably one of their strongest tools.

So good luck, Mr. Garfield. You’ve read the tea leaves and now it’s time for that ubiquitous ‘next step.’ Wherever your foot lands, that’s where you’ll be.

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