Thursday, May 19, 2011

That Was Watergate Bad

Good friend was in a graduate level journalism readings class in college. One week, the weakest presentations to the group provided the most profound single line of the year. The scholarship was shoddy and the writing, well, painful, but the conclusion of the report about some mistakes made by the media lives on.

"It was bad. Watergate bad."

Thus in our circle, when something was really ridiculous -- like the report and the soon to be departed graduate student who made it -- and simultaneous terrible -- like her subject matter -- became known as "Watergate Bad." This isn't the first time I've told this story, but it certainly bears repeating today.

Long intro to say Facebook and one of the nation's top PR agencies now finds itself in Watergate Bad trouble over a campaign to smear Google. In the political world, opps research is coin of the realm. Considering Mark Penn as the head of the agency, this is another day at the office.

The media, however, isn't finding it routine. Why we even have the reference:

" . . . seemingly worthy of a Nixon reelection campaign . . . "

Oooh. That is not only a cringe-worthy line in the Newsweek Daily Beast coverage of the start of the controversy, if you are actually invoking Nixonian references, you are, yes indeed, Watergate Bad.

The industry isn't really happy here, as an on-line post from PRSA clearly reveals.

What I find most interesting is that no one seems as creeped out about the play -- pitching borderline inaccurate or certainly overhyping a potential problem -- and focused on the lack of disclosure by the ad agency when caught.

Then again, wasn't that the heart of Watergate? As I preach, it's not about the crime, it's about the cover-up.

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