|November 7, 2011|
|PRSA to Gov. Workers: Boycott, Slam Press|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The 1,460 registrants at the 2011 PR Society of America conference in Orlando Oct. 15-18 included 106 federal, state and local government employees who learned that the way to deal with critical press is boycott it and follow that up with a campaign of slander and defamation.|
Among the students of this lesson were 26 registrants from the military including those from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Dept. of Defense, and the National Security Agency.
Many of them either were aware then or are now aware of the PRS boycott of the O’Dwyer Co. that includes all O’Dwyer employees and “assigns.” Thousands of words about the boycott have appeared on the Society website and VP-PR Arthur Yann has sent more thousands to blogs and websites such as PRwatch.org, thegoodthebadthespin.com and Jane Genova’s blog.
This writer is accused of telling “flat out lies” and being “unethical” and “unprofessional.” The “ethics” of the three websites above have been questioned for even carrying any comments by O’Dwyer.
PR Watch’s behavior “falls well outside the ethical standards espoused by the Society of Professional Journalists,” Yann posted on Oct. 11 on PRW.
Several members of the military talked us and listened to our side of the story.
They were sent the lengthy statements of the National Press Club and PR Watch which took evidence from the O’Dwyer Co. and PRSA and decided that the boycott was not justified.
Legal decisions against press boycotts have also been examined by this website but lawyers say our most powerful document by far is the NPC press release sent to 390 major media Oct. 19.
Military Should Fight This
Government PIOs and the military who spent upwards of $1,500 each of taxpayer money to attend this meeting should publicly criticize the boycott in the strongest terms.
Governments and the military are common objects of Freedom of Information requests and even legal actions. Their PR and PA people should not sit quietly by when an organization that purports to represent them is involved in a formal press boycott.
The 80 other government PR people at the conference were from bodies such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, New York State Health Foundation, Louisiana Dept. of Revenue, Arkansas Commission of State Lands, and numerous city governments and tourism bureaus.
Many Military Units Represented
Military present in Orlando included:
Rear Admiral Vic Beck, Vice Chief of Info, U.S. Navy
Lt. Commander Brook DeWalt, Dir., Strategic Comms., Office of U.S. Defense Representative to Pakistan; former PA Director, Guantanamo Bay, and former PA Officer to Commander at the International Security Force/U.S. Forces, Afghanistan. He took part in a Society interview Jan. 22, 2010.
Adam Bashaw, Deputy Dir., PA, U.S. Marine Corps, who was Director of PA, U.S., Navy, from 1986-2010. He displays the Society’s new “APR+M” after his name, signifying he passed a special process for military PR accreditation.
Robert Bryant, Chief Security Officer, Defense Info. Sys. Agency
Paul Roszkowski, Chief Petty Officer, U.S. Coast Guard PI
Angela Billings, National Media, U.S. Dept. of Air Force
Arlene Goyette, Strategic Comms. Dir., Dept. of Defense
Jamie Higdon, Deputy Chief, Strategic Comms. U.S. Citizens and Immigration Service of Homeland Security
Louis Leto, PA specialist, National Security Agency
Charles Taylor, PA, Defense Security Cooperation Agency
James Pinkelman, Dir., Comm. Integration, U.S. Marine Corps
Isidro Reyna, Deputy PA Officer, U.S. Army Engineers
Timothy Boulay, PA Dir., U.S. Navy Military Sealift
Barbara Burfiend, Defense Visual Information, former president National Capital chapter
William Dixon, Sr. Media Advisor, U.S. Forces, Afghanistan
Julie DeBardelaben, Deputy Dir., Strategic Comms., Civil Air Patrol
Diana Struski, Dir., Strategic Comms., Dept. of Army, Southern Regional Medical Command
Defense Contractors Represented
Defense contractors were represented by their PR people including Roxane MacGillivray, ethics officer, Lockheed Martin. We’ll ask her what’s ethical about a press boycott?
Also present were seven employees of Booz Allen Hamilton, a major defense and homeland security contractor — Chris Foster, Amanda Gauthier, Della Jourde, Donald Jones, Mitchell Marovitz, Julie McGregor, and Catherine Segal.
Courts Usually Support Media in Boycotts
Case law involving media boycotts has been sent to us by The Media Law Resource Center, which promotes First Amendment Rights.
Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich banned executive employees from speaking with two Baltimore Sun journalists he said failed to “objectively report” on his administration; Youngstown, Ohio Mayor George McKelvey blacklisted the Youngstown Business Journal because it criticized him (PDF), and Maryland County Sheriff Richard Voorhaar purchased all copies of St. Mary’s Today which had criticized him and his political allies (PDF).
A 19-page study by Judith Bonilla, Rachel Fugate, Amy Mushahwar and Charles Tobin of Holland & Knight, Washington, D.C., said the cases “are just a few examples of a seemingly recent and alarming trend in efforts by government officials to directly suppress the dissemination of news or to indirectly alter press coverage.”
It concludes that “First Amendment retaliation action is the best weapon available to journalists to combat some government officials’ latest efforts to coerce favorable coverage.”
While those cases involve government, the same principles apply to the private sector. Reporters and media that believe they are being improperly charged with wrongful coverage should present their cases to the public and to the courts, if necessary.
Educators, Students Get Lesson in Boycotting
Also getting the lesson in press-boycotting in Orlando were more than 180 PR professors and college PR directors and nearly 1,000 students.
I talked with numerous students in the hallways and they all seemed happy to meet me. Many of them had never heard of the O’Dwyer Co. or any of its products.
That is a chief goal of the PR Society which has never allowed any O’Dwyer ads in any Society media.
Student members are under strict orders not to deal with the O’Dwyer Co. in any way. The same media policy applies to members, officers and directors of PRS: any press call must be cleared with the PR department.
Chapters Froze When Cherenson Visited
Typical incidents involving students took place in 2009 when the O’Dwyer Co. offered them $200 to cover visits by chair Mike Cherenson to the Akron chapter May 14 and the Central Michigan chapter Sept. 23.
Calls were made in May to the PR and journalism depts. of the University of Akron, nearby Kent State University, and Youngstown State University. No student or PR Student Society member would take the basic assignment of reporting what Cherenson had to say, counting the house, and taking some pictures, a couple of hours of work.
An initially friendly atmosphere had become poisoned. Chapter president Danielle McCann at first said chapter lunches are always open on the press, but then reversed herself, saying she had made “a mistake” and “no press is or was invited” to the Cherenson lunch.
Same thing happened in Central Michigan when, also by chance, I learned of another Cherenson visit. Neither visit had been announced on the national website.
The attempts to hire a PR or J student from nearby Michigan State went nowhere. Calls and e-mails to State News, the University newspaper, were not answered. The J school, according to its website, is “nationally and internationally known” and included “a Pulitzer Prize winner, ex-Time magazine reporter and world class research and specialist faculty.”
The attempt to hire students for a journalistic assignment was called “harassing” them on pages 9-10 of the Society’s 23-pages of complaints (PDF) against me.
PRS Conducts Defamation Campaign
In addition to the physical blocking of O’Dwyer reporters from meetings and events open to other press, the Society’s employees and leaders have conducted a campaign on PRS’s own website and those of others that call Jack O’Dwyer a “liar,” “unethical,” and a violator of the Code of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Leading the charge is PRS VP-PR Arthur Yann who e-mailed to thegoodthebadthespin.com that a posting on that blog by me was a “diatribe full of misleading information and outright lies about the Society” and said on bridgebuzz.bridgeny.com that “What Mr. O’Dwyer writes is biased, misleading and often, flat out lies.”
Yann posted on the Society’s own site that I am “not a reporter but a publisher and salesman” and “much” of what I write is “biased and misleading if not outright lies.”
A close second to Yann in heaving mud is Derek DeVries, a PR pro who teaches at Grand Rapids Community College (32,000 students) and is co-chair of communications, West Michigan chapter.
DeVries, who led the “Flash Mob” attack on this reporter at the 2010 conference, accuses us of “generally-unprofessional conduct” and says we’re the “journalistic equivalent of a coelacanth” (a pre-historic fish thought extinct but still exists).
According to DeVries, I’m also guilty of “repeated and illegal behavior,” being “a curmudgeon,” am like Statler and Waldorf, which he calls “comical gadflies on the Muppets,” that I “routinely violated the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists,” that I operate a “faux-journalistic enterprise,” and on and on.
DeVries sneaked up behind me at the 2011 conference and videotaped the top of my head and recorded a phone conversation I was having.
My response to the thousands of words of attacks by DeVries is to bring this to the attention of Steven Ender, Ph.D., president of the college, and ask Enders how this squares with the pledge of “excellence” in the president’s statement?
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