|November 14, 2011|
|Pew, ProPublica, Poynter, on Fence in Boycott|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Having obtained support from the National Press Club, PR Watch and a half dozen bloggers in our bid to squash PR Society of America’s O’Dwyer boycott and defamation campaign, the O’Dwyer Co. is knocking on the doors of journalist and educator groups whose codes pledge support to journalists.|
These are well-heeled organizations with codes and promises to journalists as lofty as any PRS ever dreamt up for its members.
Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism says its goal is to “help journalists and citizens.”
It is part of the Pew Charitable Trusts that have $5.5 billion in assets and spend $250M+ yearly.
A request for help has been sent to Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Center, who was formerly media critic for the Los Angeles Times and chief congressional correspondent for Newsweek.
He is also vice chair of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and was its executive director.
CCJ, based in the NPC building in D.C., is “concerned about the pressures facing journalism” and wants to “set it apart from other forms of communication. It conducts classes for journalists. Executive director Mark Carter has been asked to examine the PRS boycott and defamation campaign.
ProPublica Is Cold as Ice
Next on our list was ProPublica, whose journalists are among the highest paid in the world—editor-in-chief Paul Steiger getting $571K plus $18K benefits; managing editor Stephen Engelberg, $341K/$35K, and treasurer Richard Tofel $320K/$27K (figures from the 2010 Form 990 filed Aug. 1).
The lofty pay is matched by ProPublica’s lofty goals—“produce journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.”
We’re happy to see ProPublica is getting funds besides the original $10M it got from Herbert and Marion Sandler who dumped Golden West Financial on Wachovia Bank in 2006 and netted $2.4B. GW’s bad loans caused a “fire sale” of Wachovia to Wells Fargo.
ProPublica got $3.8M+ from 1,300 donors in 2010 for its 34 reporters.
Under the heading of “failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them” we put the leaders/staff of the PR Society who are now enforcing a formal press boycott and whose governance practices are undemocratic and far too secretive.
Mike Webb, ProPublica’s PR head, thus far is not talking to us or answering e-mails.
Poynter Is Hesitant
Another major player in journalism ethics/training is the Poynter Institute, St. Petersburg, which “exists to help good journalists get better.”
Net assets are more than $60 million. Nelson Poynter, publisher of the St. Petersburg Times, set up the Institute which included ownership of the newspaper and its affiliates, Congressional Quarterly and Governing and Florida Trend magazines.
Says Poynter: “Our goal is to provide journalists with everything they need to achieve excellence and thus to continue the life’s work of Nelson Poynter.”
The Institute is in the news because its most famous journalist, Jim Romenesko, quit last week after Julie Moos, director of Poynter Online, criticized him for failing to put proper quotation marks around sentences in stories.
Romenesko, 58, said he had planned to go part-time at the end of the year after 12 years at PI. His wide-ranging column on anything media related and sprinkled with opinions drew about half the visitors to the PI website.
Romenesko Earned $200K+
He was paid $185K plus $19K in fringes in 2008.
Karen Dunlap, Ph.D., president, was paid $215K plus $53K from related organizations and $27K in benefits.
VP and senior scholar Roy Peter Clark was paid $166K plus $23K in benefits.
Kelly McBride, senior faculty member on ethics, reporting and writing, was not sure the PRS boycott was something that PI would take a stand on. She said she was busy at the moment. McBride and Dunlap were e-mailed background on the boycott.
McBride’s column gives opinions on topics such as ESPN’s firing of Hank Williams Jr. after he linked President Obama with Hitler (saying Obama playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner would be like Hitler playing golf with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu).
“ESPN’s decision makes sense in the light of its policy on political advocacy and how it has handled similar incidents in the past,” wrote McBride.
We wonder if Poynter will have anything to say about PRS since most of Poynter’s criticisms are of reporters and news media rather than the institutions they cover.
However, since McBride specializes in “ethics,” we asked her what’s ethical about a press boycott?
Another Brush-off From CPJ
We got another brush-off from a group one might expect to jump to a reporter in need—The Committee to Protect Journalists, located only a few blocks from us.
Our problem is that we’re in the U.S. and CPJ is focused on bad things happening to journalists in every other country.
PR head Gypsy Kaiser again told us that CPJ is concerned with journalists in “imminent danger” which “takes priority over longer-running disputes and issues such as those involved in your situation.” She said the Americas team would review the materials we sent her but it’s “not considered a grave priority.” She noted there are a number of attacks and killings in Latin America that are occupying CPJ.
CPJ had net assets of $12.6M at the end of 2009, according to its 990. Executive director Joel Simon was paid $172K plus $8,239 in benefits.
Chair is Sandra Mims Rowe, of The Oregonian from 1993-2010 and who last week joined Arizona State University as visiting professor in journalism ethics. She will teach that subject in the spring. Previously she was chair of the Board of Visitors of the Knight Fellowships at Stanford University.
Kaiser recommended the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press of Washington, D.C., which sounded like a good bet until communications director Debra Hernandez said the Committee was only concerned with helping those who seek information from government bodies.
The Committee’s blue chip board includes reps from AP, Time, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and CBS, NBC and ABC and we hope it will take a deeper look at the PRS boycott.
More than 500 government and military PR pros belong to the PA section alone and there are probably 1,000+ other government members, all of whom deal with the press.
They have just received a lesson from PRS that the way to deal with a critical news medium is a combination of a boycott and campaign of defamation.
Yann Conducts Negative Campaign
Such a campaign has been conducted by VP-PR Arthur Yann not only on the Society’s own website but on other websites including prwatch.com, thegoodthebadthespin.com, newsroomink.com, bridgebuzz.bridgeny.com, janegenova.com, and talentzoo.com.
PR Watch, for instance, was told by Yann that its behavior, like ours, “falls well outside the ethical standards imposed by the Society of Professional Journalists.”
Thegoodthebadthespin, hosted by Robert Conrad, Ph.D., was criticized by Yann for carrying an O’Dwyer posting and had its ethics questioned.
Ed Lallo, former PRSA chapter officer who hosts newsroomink, has been accused of pitching the Society in “an extortion-like way.” The Yann posting added: “As the saying goes, there’s honor among thieves. Or put another way, a disregard for professional ethics makes strange bedfellows.”
Blogger Jane Genova, who called PRS’s boycott “dumb as dirt,” was told by Yann on her blog: “So, if you’d like your clients to call into question your firm’s own ethics, you’re certainly welcome to side with Mr. O’Dwyer.”
Lucy Siegel, who blogged that the O’Dwyer boycott was “totally unprofessional, unethical and childish,” was told by Yann: “You seem to have missed my point. What Mr. O’Dwyer writes is biased, misleading and often, flat out lies.”
Shawn Paul Wood, host of Talent Zoo, who said no PR firm would advise a client to boycott a news medium, was told by Yann: “From your post, it doesn’t seem as though you’ve taken the time to understand our position.”
Yann further indirectly accused Wood of being a “casual observer” who might not understand why PRS would take an action “that seems to fly in the face of established PR tenets.”
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