VII. Talk Show Culture Goes Corporate

By 1999, U.S. talk show culture was heading out in another direction: the information-age corporate board room. Business consultants were advising corporations to stage their own company-wide talk shows as opportunities for employees to collaborate more creatively by listening to each other. “We’re always looking for ways to break down barriers in the company,” said marketing executive Emma Carrasco of Nortel Networks, explaining to Fast Companymagazine why she was hosting a teleconferenced international talk show for Nortel employees, starring the company’s regional director. The firm’s employees “watch talk shows in every country in the (South American) region, and they’ve learned that it’s okay to say what’s on their mind. In fact, it’s expected.”

Businesses like the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, Hewlett-Packard Laboratories, and Home Depot adapted talk show culture’s interactive, anti-hierarchical, informal, and story-oriented approaches, hoping to improve communication both inside the company and outside, with their customers. However, they did not take on all of talk show culture as they adapted it for business. Left behind, these companies hoped, were the ambush surprises, the hostility and combat of Jerry Springer, and the sexual distractions that would continue to propel talk shows into the next millennium, through every available medium.