Some institutions and individuals seem to exist solely to serve reporters trolling for a quote. Center for Online and Internet Addiction, we’re looking at you. At the New York Times, that go-to quote machine is Professor Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture. NYTPicker dug deep into the archives and found that Thompson had been quoted by 78 reporters in 150 stories over the span of two decades. How does one vault to the top of the rolodex? Well, focusing one’s academic research on a trend-oriented subject like pop culture always helps. So does a willingness to lend your quick wit to a variety of subjects. “Spaghetti tacos has made it possible to eat spaghetti in your car,” says Thompson in today’s Times. “It’s a very important technological development. You don’t even need a plate.”
Back in 1994, Thompson also offered some handy snark for an article about Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, “And what better protagonists for what is basically a lascivious medium than two young girls whose basic mode of operation is in a pair of tights?” But he took a more poetic turn in a 2004 article about cicadas, “It’s the closest thing to a time machine you can get outside of science fiction.”
NYTPicker wasn’t the first to notice just how conveniently a quote from Thompson could spice up a dull trend story or an observational essay. We found a 2007 article by the Associated Press that traced the phenomenon back to Thompson’s willingness to return calls and un-academic manner of speaking. The AP quoted Thompson twenty times that year (back then, the Times’s tally was only up to 40), dubbing the print-ready gems that fell from his mouth “Thompson-isms.” Oh c’mon, we know someone who could come up with a better turn-of-phrase than that.