|January 11, 2010|
|PRSA Chair Has 'Birth By Fire'|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The start of 2010 has been a "birth by fire" for new PRSA chair Gary McCormick.|
all-out war between Cablevision of New York and Scripps Networks Interactive and in coping with issues at the Society, including the year-end dissolution of the Multicultural Section allegedly without any knowledge or input from the section.
Members are also asking for an early 2009 financial report from PRS, noting it only took one month to come up with the Q3 figures that showed a 45% decline in revenues, a 9% decline in dues and a 60% decline in registration fees (link, sub req'd). Cited were dips in seminars/webinars and the sections.
Members noted that 1997 president Debra Miller released the 1996 financials in February. PRS usually waits until May or June to release an "audited report."
McCormick's job description at Scripps HGTV includes "increasing affiliate fees."
Cablevision, in full-page ads in the New York Times and New York Post and in announcements on HGTV and the Food Network, claims that Scripps wants an "astronomical" $20 million more for the two shows which have been yanked by Scripps.
Press Conferences Lacking
Where are the press conferences to explain what is a complicated situation and help the public decide what is just in this situation?
The Scripps ads say nothing about money, only that the company is doing "all in its power to right this situation."
Illogically, the ads say, "We know the reasons for this impasse with Cablevision are not what matters to you." Of course they do.
Both sides have turned their backs on a public airing of this dispute with questions flung at them by industry and general reporters. Millions of New York area residents are blocked now from the two programs.
This is a "PR" situation if ever there was one but organizations in general, from the Office of the President of the U.S. on down, are shrinking from being grilled in public which is a bedrock principle of democracy.
"PR" needs to sharpen skills needed in debating, discussion and dialogue which PR Prof. Tim Penning has described as the essence of PR (link, sub req'd).
HGTV Helped Inflate Housing Balloon
McCormick, as the head of the world's largest PR group, supposedly is an expert in PR.
The last time we called him about HGTV was in February 2009 when Time mag said its shows were guilty of housing hype.
Scripps' Burton Jablin (pictured), its "programming czar," was named as one of "25 People to Blame" for the housing bubble since HGTV "pumped air into the real estate froth by teaching us how to extract value from our homes."
Time rapped such HGTV programs as "Designed to Sell," "House Hunters" and "My House Is Worth What?" as well as "Flip That House" (TLC) and "Flip This House" (A&E).
"No one on these shows ever seemed to lose a dollar, giving the housing game too much glamour and gusto," said Time.
When we called McCormick on the article he said he wasn't the spokesperson and referred us to SVP-comms. Cindy McConkey, who didn’t return a call or e-mail.
McCormick Has "Birth by Fire"
Besides the war with Cablevision, McCormick has to cope with multiple boo-boos at the PR Society.
Among them are the sudden year-end dissolution of the Multicultural Section because its 73 members did not turn enough of a profit; the appointment by McCormick of African-American Ofield Dukes (pictured) to a non-voting board post after Dukes sought to be a voting director, and the revelation in McCormick’s opening essay on the PRS website that he is a director of the Knoxville Center of the Deaf.
This astounded us since PRS staffers, after being told we had a hearing problem, twice denied our requests for a seat up front at the Nov. 7 Assembly or access to earphones.
Lawyers for the National Assn. of the Deaf and other groups assure us we had a legal right to reasonable accommodation including an "assistive hearing aid" since we were an invited, credentialed reporter.
Assembly Was Costly in Money and Time
This was the most important Assembly in the 63-year history of PRS since it was considering a complete revision of the bylaws. We believe the conduct of the meeting, in which basic Robert’s and parliamentary rules were ignored, including the use of proxy votes and failure to air all articles in the revision, render much of what was done Nov. 7 invalid.
PRS blocked us from hearing about half of what went on but McCormick, if he has any weight on the new board, could rectify this by getting us both the audiotape and transcript of the 5.5 hours of discussion and debate. Both were available for Assemblies until 2005.
It’s inconsistent for him to be on the board of the KCD while also refusing to make up for PRS’s improper and unethical blocking of our coverage. He resigned from the 2006 PRS board, obviously in dissatisfaction with certain board policies. Another board member, Ron Owens, resigned the same year.
Reports were that there was dissatisfaction with the large number of tasks given to directors by 2006 president Cheryl Procter-Rogers, and the fact that the 2005 Assembly had made the executive committee "the flexible extension of the full board," turning the rest of the board into "eunuchs," according to critics.
McCormick should do so again if the board does not listen to him.
We have put this issue to the board of the Knoxville Center of the Deaf but so far they’re turning a deaf ear to us.
An e-mail to board president Barry Swafford and secretary Wayne Kline of the law firm of Hodges, Doughty & Carson is at the end of this blog.
Another issue for McCormick is that 2009 Assembly was not conducted in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order, which is cited as its official “parliamentary authority.”
Robert’s Rejects Proxies
Those rules reject the use of proxies in a deliberative body. But 56 or 22% of the votes were proxies and they were used to put proxies into the bylaws, a double abomination.
Additionally, only about half of the 15 articles in the revision were put to the delegates for discussion and vote. Robert’s demands that all articles in a revision be put to discussion and vote.
Other guidance of Robert’s is that a complicated task like a revision not be done at a regular meeting but only at a special meeting and after a series of meetings. Such guidance was ignored.
The use of proxies means that any vote of the 2009 Assembly in which proxies were the deciding factor could be challenged indefinitely. No “statute of limitations” applies for such an egregious violation of “fundamental” parliamentary rules.
McCormick May Have Uphill Fight
We wonder if McCormick has the votes to get his way with the board which has its first meeting Jan. 28-30.
A boardroom revolt took place at the first board meeting in January 2008 in which treasurer Tom Eppes and others moved to block any influence of 2007 chair Rhoda Weiss on 2008 nominations. The putsch failed (link, sub req'd).
Eppes, although in line to be chair-elect, then decided against running and has left the board. The 2009 Weiss nominating committee picked PR prof. Rosanna Fiske of Florida Int’l University as chair-elect, giving her a third trip to the board.
Instead of Dukes of Washington, D.C., the Weiss nomcom proposed solo practitioner Barbara Whitman as at-large director. Also joining the board are APR supporters Blake Lewis, former chair of the Universal Accreditation Board, and Bob Frause, chair of the Ethics Board. Frause in 2000 led the removal of enforcement mechanisms from the PRS Code.
The national board in 1999 was accused of violating five articles of the Code by instituting a formal boycott against the O’Dwyer Co.
As an indication of the continuing grip of the APRs on PRS, only APRs are allowed on the Ethics Board.
A boycott continues against the O’Dwyer Co. This includes barring PRS membership by any O’Dwyer staffer and barring O’Dwyer ads in PRS media. No reason has ever been given for this boycott.
E-Mail to KCD Board
Friday, Jan. 8, 2008
To Mr. Barry Swafford
Knoxville Center of the Deaf
Hello Mr. Swafford:
Congratulations on the great work of you and the KCD in behalf of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. I have had a hearing problem since I was 15 but then had a career as a reporter for about 50 years, ten of them with the Chicago Tribune and former NY Journal-American as a financial reporter.
I hear o.k. on the phone but otherwise use two hearing aids. The O’Dwyer website is viewed by PR people throughout the U.S. and in more than 140 foreign countries. Please sample www.odwyerpr.com. Our company is 41 years old.
I am e-mailing you because KCD director Gary McCormick has told the 20,000-member PR Society of America that he is on your board and presumably a friend and supporter of those with hearing problems. Gary took office Jan. 1 as the elected chair of the group, the largest such group in the world and which claims leadership of PR worldwide.
I find it inconsistent that Gary should be identified with helping the hearing deprived when his organization three times blocked me from being able to adequately hear at its national conference in San Diego Nov. 7-10.
That was bad enough but could easily be rectified. The Society has both an audiotape and a transcript of the entire 5.5-hour proceedings. For many years it gave out both to those who wanted it, including me. Withholding them is highly undemocratic and unfair to the members and press. It is stonewalling at its worst. Several members have petitioned the New York County Supreme Court for the 2008 Assembly transcript. Members have to go to court to get information out of PRS! The Society will not disclose to the general membership and press the complete list of Assembly delegates.
Gary could obtain such documents if he wished. Otherwise he should resign. He resigned from the 2006 board saying he had business pressures but I think it was in protest to board policies. There are 17 directors and no great time pressure on any one of them. He was only the second director to resign midterm in the 60 years of the Society. Ron Owens, the first male African-American director, also resigned that year after only six months of a three-year term.
No African-Americans are on the current 17-member board.
I would like to talk to you or other board members for 15 minutes or so to present my case. I hope KCD will not turn a “deaf ear” to me.
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