If you follow the national news, there's a word you hear more and more these days: Watergate.
The pundits, commentators, anchors and scholars who populate our 24/7 news cycle are drawing comparisons between what's going on in Washington today and those historic events of almost 50 years ago that led to President Nixon's resignation.
We don't know yet if those dots connect, but it makes one wonder if the current state of affairs will spur one of the results that followed Watergate: An explosion of interest in journalism.
I was just at the beginning of my media career when the Watergate story unfolded. Like every other journalist at a major newspaper, the reporting from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein was mesmerizing. We huddled around the Associated Press teletype machines and watched every word in rapt fascination.
Suddenly I didn't feel like the geeky kid who worked on the school newspaper, but a First Amendment soldier in the battle to save our Republic. Working for a newspaper was cool. The movie "All the President's Men" only reinforced that. It was an amazing time and certainly a proud moment for all of us in the business.
One result saw students flooding into journalism programs at colleges across the country, aspiring to be the next Woodward and Bernstein. It was reported at the time that there were suddenly two hundred J-School graduates competing for every available job.
Of course, it's a much different media world today. Newspapers have declined to half the size they were in the Watergate era; the influence of broadcast news has waned while 24/7 cable news dominates the TV landscape. But looming large over all is the Internet, with its billions of users, where headlines move at light speed between thousands of news websites (both fake and real), blogs and social media.
You don't have to go to J-School to be in the game. All you need is an Internet connection. This is both good and bad. Good that it expands the playing field; bad that it undermines credibility and trust when anything can be passed off as fact without the checks and balances J-School taught us to apply.
One thing that isn't different: We still have the Washington Post, the New York Times and others aggressively and bravely carrying out their First Amendment duty. And thank God for that.