I’d been a hard-core Democrat in in the early 1970’s. At that point, I was working lunches and cocktail hour as a bartender, and had time to watch the Watergate hearings in the afternoon. It’s hard for people today to imagine just how addictive they were. The coverage was everywhere – newspapers (at that point, Cleveland was a 2-newspaper town), magazines, evening news (the 24-hour coverage that we take for granted wasn’t available then).
Those media personalties that did exist were, themselves, overwhelmed by the suddenness of the change in How Things Were Done. Rather than a short national report (and OCCASIONAL special reports), followed by the local news – the whole evening report seldom took up as much as an hour, and that included weather and sports time.
But, Watergate! It must have been heady – for a relatively brief investment of time and energy, reporters could chase the “leads” of disgruntled federal employees and envious political rivals, and be given their own spotlight on national TV. Most of them had never had that kind of attention before, other than the anchors (and, remember, most locations had but 2-3 channels available).
Well, we now know what sudden fame does to people who are thrust into it – the Real Housewives of Whereever, various ‘Idols’ and social media influencers, and others caught up in a media frenzy – all for the opportunity to shine for a nano-second. It can lead to evermore outrageous lies, inventions, and creative re-writing of history.
Bad as the attention-seekers that populate Hollywood, media, and other spotlights are, imagine the effect on obscure people – bookkeepers, secretaries, bureaucrats – who are sought after for just a teensy betrayal of confidential information. Stories, once based in some smidgen of fact, become exaggerated and filled with baseless speculation. They are coaxed, seduced, and manipulated by the media.
And, some, like Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky, never do get their lives back. On some level, you have to have pity for the mess they have made of their lives.