There’s nothing special about it. Just another nondescript suburban parking garage in Rosslyn, Va. Lots of concrete and shadowy corners. It’s where “Deep Throat” met with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and guided him through the Watergate scandal that toppled President Nixon in 1974 and redefined an industry for a new generation of journalists.
Besides a small plaque installed in 2011, few seemed to notice. Nor was there an outcry when county officials recently approved its date with a wrecking ball to make way for office and residential towers. As history, the edifice is peripheral.
But the impact of events (besides the obvious political ones) demands introspection.
For journalism, it was the leading edge of a shift in purpose from reporting to investigating to advocating. With each step, the industry moved farther from its roots as an even-handed seeker of facts. Decades later, what passes for public debate often devolves into a swamp of who can shout loudest or be shrillest.
Before the industry could find new footing, it was hit with another seismic shock — the ascent of digital news that undermined print publishing’s advertising-based business model and vastly expanded the number and scope of low-cost news channels. It will be years before outlines of a new journalism are discernible.
One thing, however, is clear. In the battle for eyeballs, print media is pre-ordained to lose.
The lesson: Embrace progress, or get out of the way. Know anyone who prefers a typewriter to a computer? Mountains of paper files to tiny memory chips? A buggy to a car? Which is more efficient, more effective and makes life easier?
Crisis & Reputation Management also adapts. Tools in use today are substantially different from a decade ago, and they’ll be far different a decade from now.
But tools are only devices. Essence is immutable: Be calm and decisive. Define the “real” facts, not simply what the client wants you to know. Devise defenses that are credible and convincing. Reputation depends on it.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Preparation & Training. You can reach Roger Gillott directly at 310-826-8696.
If you don’t already subscribe, please sign up for our blog, Insights on High-Stakes PR.
For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’sGuide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”
Photo courtesy of freedigitialphotos.net