“Our Top Story Tonight…”       

Issue 10

By:  Ron Brounes           

February 1998


After surfing through the channels on television the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize the United States has truly become a tabloid society.  Certainly, early indications should have brought this to light well before now.  (So, I’m a little slow.)  Americans had an absolute infatuation with the O.J. trials, spending hours on end focused on Court TV, speculating about motives, and even missing work to watch the verdict.  The reaction following the Princess Diana tragedy further revealed this mentality, as countless folks set alarm clocks for 3:00 A.M to observe the royal funeral.  Today, a new “tabloid frenzy” has taken the country by storm as virtually every conversation around virtually every dinner table (and topless bar) involves the President and his “alleged” overactive sexual appetite.  The media may very well be the primary culprit for our overzealous enthusiasm.  We are programmed to follow what they “show and tell” us; these days they have little interest in covering anything else. 


While I’m embarrassed to admit it, I too have found myself caught up in this hype, though I try to maintain a certain level of dignity.  Instead of reading the prototypical  “Globe” or “Enquirer” in the line at the grocery store (I only scan the headlines), I obtain my gossip from the “Wall Street Journal”, “New York Times”, and “Time Magazine.”  These days it’s actually hard to tell the difference.  Likewise, I don’t track the details on “Hard Copy” or “Geraldo”, but rather on reputable journalistic news programs like “CNN World Tonight”, “Nightline”, and “This Week with Sam and Cokie.”  (Did I say dignity?)  I’ve watched the Prez gracefully dance around reporters’ pressing questions while sitting alongside the likes of Madeline Albright,  Tony Blair, and Yasir Arafat.  The world watches with much anticipation as the media continues to probe and prod and hound and hassle “all the president’s men” in search of some well deserved answers.  Meanwhile, despite our complete fascination with these “important” developments of the day, crucial events of the world continue to shape our very lives.  But we don’t even notice.




The Pope (John Paul II) made history when he visited Communist Cuba, even taking a minute or two to bash the United States and our policy of economic sanctions.  (Mr. President, did you…)  Ted Kaczynski (rhymes with Lewinsky) admitted that he was, in fact, the “Unabomber” pleading guilty before being sentenced to life in prison.  (That girl, Monica, has she…)   The Asian financial woes continue to wreak havoc on foreign markets, threatening to halt this country’s greatest economic expansion.  (And Kenneth Starr, isn’t he…)   The economy of Houston should reap financial rewards with the announcements of the mergers/associations/partnerships between Compaq and Digital as well as Continental  and Northwest Airlines. (How does Hillary feel about…).  The Winter Olympics, featuring local hero Tara Lipinski, (also rhymes with Lewinsky - coincidence???) have begun in earnest.  (Mr. Ginsburg, when did…)  And, oh by way, we’re going to war with Iraq.  Sadly, the country is far more familiar with Vernon Jordan than with Alan Greenspan.  We know more about Betty Currie’s position within the administration than that of Bill Cohen.                     



Well as long as we’re all totally engulfed in the controversy de jour, we might as well try to learn something in the process.  While we’ve gained plenty of valuable insight into political internships, legal tape recordings, and marital infidelity, this current situation makes for an excellent case study in media relations, a topic quite important in today’s workplace.  Everyday, businesses across the country find themselves caught up in the often fast paced challenges of dealing with the media.  As difficulties occur within our organizations, the press is often right at the forefront, ready, willing, and eager to “report” the facts to the concerned public.  Unfortunately, since we, in this tabloid society, typically delight in learning about the misfortunes of others, much of the “impartial” journalism comes with a negative “spin” that is often quite difficult to overcome.




That’s where watching this breaking story can help.  The President and his “partners in crime” (better known as political and legal spindoctors) have done a masterful job at diverting the attention of the nation into a totally new direction (Anyone see “Wag the Dog”??) .  On every news program, in every magazine article, throughout every interview, all of the President’s associates have stayed on message and changed the focus from the “Clinton Affairs” to the “Starr Conspiracy.”  And it’s working.  The President’s favorable numbers are up; Starr’s ratings are approaching those of Newt Gingrich.   The main point here is not in the diversion, but rather in the message consistency.  Within every business, each employee, from CEO to maintenance man, should be taught to relay a universal message to the listening public.  In times of trouble, talking points should be distributed to ensure that everyone within the organization is spreading the proper company word.  (As long as those talking points don’t constitute an obstruction of justice.)  If they’re repeated long enough, the hounding media will have no choice but to tell “your” story.  


Additionally, the President has done an exceptional job of not dwelling on the conflict(s) and “pretending” to concentrate on his business at hand.  Under trying circumstances, the State of the Union address was nothing short of remarkable.  Likewise, in the workplace, all efforts must be placed on remaining totally focused on your daily responsibilities.  In stressful times, your customers as well as your competitors will be watching your every move, waiting for you to slip, so they too can pounce on your misfortunes.  Don’t give them the satisfaction of becoming their tabloid news.  Leave that job to someone more deserving and experienced, someone like the President.


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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH is a publication of Brounes & Associates focusing on business marketing and general communications strategies. Please call Ron Brounes (does NOT rhyme with Lewinsky) at 713-432-1910 for additional information.  FWIW strives to maintain the utmost in journalistic integrity and should, in no way, be associated with or compared to any sensationalized tabloid periodical that may have been referred to above.