|November 18, 2011|
|PR, J-Profs Should Explore PRSA Press Boycott|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|This blog is an open letter to PR and journalism professors proposing that they form a Blue Ribbon Panel on Press Boycotts to study PR Society of America’s unprecedented formal boycott against the O’Dwyer Co., all its employees and any “assign” of the company.|
The National Press Club and PR Watch, two of the most credible sources among journalistic organizations, have both urged the Society to drop the boycott but they have been ignored.
The Society continues to give its rejection of the NPC advice maximum publicity on its website. Since Oct. 19—nearly a month—the No. 1 item under “What’s New” on the opening page of the Society website has been the Society’s criticism of the NPC statement regarding the boycott. Headline is “PRSA Reacts to National Press Club Statement.”
PRSA's misleading attack has led the 'What's New' section of its website for a month.
[Update @3:35PM: PRSA removed the link after this story was posted.]
The statement by VP-PR Arthur Yann says “It strikes us as ironic that the NPC would question PRSA’s actions while at the same time excusing Mr. O’Dwyer’s.”
NPC did not “question” the Society’s actions. It urged the Society to drop the boycott. NPC did not “excuse” any of the alleged wrongdoings of this reporter. It said that “While we find many of the points in the letter unfortunate and even highly disagreeable, we do not think they constitute a reason to ban a reporter who has been allowed access for 40 years.”
NPC did not accept the truth of any of the Society charges. I spent quite a few minutes rebutting those charges and presenting documentation.
Boycott Is of National Importance
The Society has made at least 35 separate charges of wrongdoing against me in a 23-page document dated Sept. 1 and in postings on the Society website by Yann on Oct. 19 and Oct. 26. The 23-page document was posted on the O’Dwyer website shortly after it was received.
This issue should be of importance to PR, communications and journalism departments of colleges because it says a lot about the pressures on PR and journalism.
Newspaper jobs are in short supply today because of the huge decline in ads. Ad revenues (print and online) fell from $49.4 billion in 2005 to $25.8B in 2010, according to the Newspaper Assn. of America. That’s a decline of nearly $25 billion and translates to the loss of lots of jobs and a lost opportunities for J grads. TV ads, meanwhile, grew from $52B in 2000 to $65B in 2010 and web ads from $7B to $35B.
Journalists need to be stronger and not weaker in this climate or there will be further erosion.
The PR portion of communications has been expanding and now totals more than 250,000 practicing PR pros. There are fewer than 50,000 practicing journalists.
PR has shown its power with respect to the O’Dwyer Co. by publishing a formal, written boycott not only of me but any O’Dwyer employee or any “assign.”
National Press Club Is Dismayed
The National Press Club, which heard both my side and the PR Society’s side, issued a press release to 390 major media with bureaus in Washington, D.C., expressing “disappointment” with the boycott and urging the Society to end it.
A similar request was made by PR Watch, which has exposed abuses in government and businesses since 1993 and has been supported by more than 40 sources including the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, Turner, Stern, Ettinger, Goldman and other foundations.
NPC and PRW are about as credible as any institutions can be in communications.
But the Society criticized both.
PRW, which carried a posting by me, was told in a posting by Yann that its behavior, like my behavior, “falls well outside the ethical standards imposed by the SPJ.”
The ethics of Robert Conrad, Ph.D., host of thegoodthebadthespin.com, were called into question by Yann after Conrad carried an O’Dwyer posting.
Blogger Jane Genova, who has authored and co-authored many PR-related books and articles, was hit with this remark after posting an O’Dwyer comment: “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.” Genova had called the Society boycott “dumb as dirt.”
Blogger Lucy Siegel, former officer of the Society’s New York chapter, who called the boycott “totally unprofessional, unethical and childish,” and who posted an O’Dwyer comment, was hit with this comment by Yann: “You seem to have missed my point. What Mr. O’Dwyer writes is biased, misleading and often, flat out lies.”
Ed Lallo, former officer of the Austin chapter, who hosts newsroomink.com and who wrote that because of the boycott the Society “has lost credibility as an organization that can effectively speak for its members,” was accused by Yann of pitching the Society in “an extortion-like way,” which Lallo denied. Yann added: “As the saying goes, there’s honor among thieves. Or put another way, a disregard for professional ethics makes strange bedfellows.”
Dozens of comments on the Society’s boycott, both for and against it, are on the newsroomink site.
Yann Cuts Debate on Society Website
While numerous Yann comments have been carried on the O’Dwyer website and many PR blogs, a discussion that followed the Oct. 26 Yann posting on the Society website and that drew 18 comments (16 of them negative to me) was closed on Tuesday, Nov. 1, before 9:00 a.m. It had been up four days when usual web practice is to keep debates open indefinitely.
This reporter had been able to post one correction of the dozens of false charges and miss-statements in the 23 pages and the Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 postings of Yann.
This essay will address the No. 1 complaint in the 23 pages—that I “Misrepresented” the Society’s financial condition and accounting practices.
The Society quotes the “Federal Accounting Standards Board” when the correct name is the “Financial Accounting Standards Board.”
There is an indirect quote that FASB says it is “acceptable to book nonrefundable revenues upon receipt.”
There are no quote marks around this statement because it is not a word-for-word quote.
The word-for-word quote from Section 5.46 of ASC 958-605-25-1 is that dues are to be “recognized over the period to which the dues relate.” This specifically refers to “dues” income, a detail that the indirect quote of the Society leaves out. All the major professional groups including the America Bar Assn., American Medical Assn., and the American Institute of CPAs defer large amounts of their dues.
By booking about $4.5 million in dues as an “asset” rather than counting about half of this amount as a liability, the Society bloats its “net assets” figure by about $2.2 million.
It claimed in the 23 pages about us that this practice is “acceptable,” which is an odd thing for it to claim since the Society frequently refers to “best practices” in PR and never to “acceptable” practices.
At the very least, the Society should show its balance sheet both ways.
Accounting professors Charles Mulford of Georgia Tech and Edward Ketz of Penn State, who were given a copy of one of the Society’s audits, both said that dues income should be booked as earned over the course of a year.
Phil Wolitzer, who has given accounting classes to reporters for the New York AICPA, told us after examining the 2005 Society audit, that it did not meet the standards for “full, fair and adequate disclosure.” (PDF of article)
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