On Second Thought

History is often revised. But seldom in short term.

History is often revised.
But seldom in short term.

Time softens the sharp edges. As memories fade, events are reinterpreted. Sometimes to reflect new evidence. More often to better fit with what is comfortable for our purposes today.

Take the Union Army’s Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. It’s the 150th anniversary of his brutal March to the Sea, and historians — including some in the South — are revising his image to be one who destroyed the Confederacy’s war machine but spared civilians.

Or John Muir, the grandfather of environmentalism, whose late-19th and early-20th century vision of protecting pristine wilderness at all costs is becoming less relevant in contemporary society beset with issues of burgeoning population, urban sprawl and climate change.

The same is true with current events.

With the public, revisionism is commonplace. Partly because the public has a short attention span. Also because the farther removed we are in time from an event, the more specifics blur.

In the long run, it’s also true of journalists. As the red-hot glare dissipates, so does the interest of their editors and the public.

In the short term, reporters are less forgiving. Once they’ve got hold of a story that promises them a prominent and recurring byline, they’re loathe to let go of it.

You can try to refine what you said or did. You can clarify what you meant. But you can’t un-say or un-do it.

There are anomalies, but they are rare.

Like the media’s coverage of John Deasy, who recently stepped down as the head of Los Angeles Unified School District. The media was merciless and unrelenting — until he resigned. Then the LA Times ran a series of prominent articles about how much he achieved.

Which brings us back to the underlying rule of day-to-day journalism: Bad news is news. Good news isn’t. The goal of Crisis PR is to protect our clients.


“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 and Eden Gillott Bowe directly at 310-396-8696.

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For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net


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