About a month ago, I attended a panel discussion during "The New Yorker Festival" called "All the President's Reporters."
It was an august panel, featuring four Pulitzer-Prize winners, Jo Becker of "The New York Times," Jane Meyer of "The New Yorker," and Greg Miller of "The Washington Post." The old man on the panel was the legendary Carl Bernstein (also of the Post) whose investigation into Watergate helped bring down Richard Nixon in 1974.
The audience smelled blood. We spent the 90 minutes waiting for some revelation about Trump, some "insider" knowledge that would finally bring our tinpot tyrant down.
Then, Bernstein, who had 20 years on the rest of the panel, took over the discussion.
"Look," he said, "Journalism won't bring down Trump. Journalism can only uncover the truth. And the truth will bring down Trump."
I've been thinking about Bernstein's wisdom since I heard him say it. What is truth? Truth in our business?
Too many people, in our industry and others, are rapid-fire quick in telling you how great they are, how much they do, and all about their general magnificence.
They're quick to talk about everything but actual work.
I tend to take self-promotion and personal branding with a grain of salt the size of the Hoover Dam.
As the oldest-working-copywriter in the formerly-free world, I can say the secret of longevity is not self-promotion. It is truth: the truth of your work. The truth of your dedication. The truth of giving credit to others. The truth of doing the little things. The truth of trying to be generous and kind.
There was a time in our business when agencies were judged by the brands they built, judged by the work they actually did.
Those agencies were built, in other words, on truth. On what they actually did. Not just their own press-releases. I find it hard, today, to find a similar relationship of consequence in the ad industry.
In other words, it seems to me there is more Vayner-like self-aggrandizement that Bernbach-like substance.
I'm old-fashioned, I know. And I'll steal a line from Lady Gaga, I was born this way.
And, I prefer it.