|June 13, 2012|
|Lawyer Should Not Head Reporters Committee|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|Lucy Dalglish, a lawyer, has resigned after 12 years of being COO at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. |
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that a search committee is seeking another lawyer to head the RCFP, which is sitting on a treasure chest of $6.2 million although it only has $1.1M in annual expenses.
Would a legal society look for a reporter to head it?! A giant “No.”
The legal camel got its nose into the reporters’ tent and this was soon followed by the rest of the camel. The usual mess has been made.
In this era when the press is under huge economic and political pressures, the RCFP needs a reporter with fire in his or her belly and not a lawyer who is worried that the slightest statement may result in a lawsuit.
The legal mind is death to the type of communications that must go on in journalism. Lawyers think in terms of guilty or not guilty, plaintiff and defendant, accused and accuser, friend and enemy.
There is no in between. They are counter-punches whose stock advice is “say nothing.”
The introduction of legal threats to a discussion is like someone showing up for a touch football game with helmet, shoulder pads, etc., who blocks and tackles as hard as possible. Or an astronomer studying the moon to the exclusion of the rest of the universe.
Focus on Legal Ignores Ethics
Lawyers' obsession with what is “legal” blinds them to blatant unethical practices.
What is legal may be far from what is ethical. The web is loaded with discussions that point out that legal is what the government can tell you to do while ethics is knowing right from wrong.
In RCFP’s case, it has taken the tack that it will only get involved in matters involving governments because Freedom of Information lawsuits can only be filed against governments.
RCFP, therefore, will have nothing to do with my request for it to examine the press boycott of the PR Society. PRS not only barred me from the 2011 Assembly, but later announced on newsroomink that no reporters would be allowed in future Assemblies.
Staffs of the American Medical Assn., American Bar Assn. and American Institute of CPAs are always headed by one of their own pros. PR and journalist groups should follow that lead.
The scandalous sale of hundreds of thousands of copies of authors’ articles without their permission by PRS from 1980-94 would not have taken place if PR people dominated the h.q. staff.
More Bad Journalism News — Committee Folds
Another piece of bad J news is that the Committee of Concerned Journalists folded Dec. 31 after 14 years.
It was “dedicated to helping an industry in crisis find solutions that are consistent with the enduring values of journalism.”
CCJ was co-founded by Tom Rosenstiel who also heads the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism based in the National Press Club building in D.C. It is part of the Pew Charitable Trusts that have $5.5 billion in assets and spent $250M yearly.
CCJ has been linked the past six years with the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri which will continue its work.
Reynolds is not interested in PRS’s exclusion of the press from its annual Assembly or other meetings. The mission of Reynolds is to “generate and test innovative models and technologies for journalism and advertising.
Rosenstiel has also said PRS’s interference with press coverage is not a subject for the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
PRS Ignores Laws
A problem with PRS saying it obeys the law is that it doesn’t.
PRS has falsely told members that proxy votes are legal and permissible in the Assembly when they are not.
PRS has adopted Robert’s Rules as its guide which has a section that says adoption of RR satisfies any state demand for a specific rule against proxies.
PRS and its lawyers ignore this and 56 proxies were used to vote in the use of proxies at the 2009 Assembly. The Assembly needs its own lawyer.
Under RR, all the 2009 votes are subject to perpetual challenge because of the poison of proxy votes. Same thing for all the votes in Assemblies after that. Who votes the proxies and how they are
voted are mysteries as are the composition of the Assembly and what the delegates say. Last transcript published was in 2004.
PRS Copying Was Illegal
Also both illegal and unethical was the sale of hundreds of thousands of copies of authors’ articles (PDF) that was carried on by PRS from at least 1980 until 1994 when an expose by the O’Dwyer Co. halted the lucrative practice. PRS was netting about $60,000 a year on the purloined pieces.
Why did this atrocity take place? One reason was that the executive director, Betsy Kovacs, was an association career person rather than a PR person or a journalist.
No PR person nor journalist would allow the copying and sale of an author’s article without checking first with the author. No academician would have allowed it since plagiarism or sale of another’s work is high crime in academia. The information pack business grew throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, reaching 3,800 packets a year sold for up to $55 each. A total of 1,000 subjects were offered with especially “hot” ones (like the O’Dwyer article on “How to Hire a PR Firm”) being available within 24 hours.
Supposedly only one copy of each was being delivered. But recipients could keep the info packs for up to two weeks. How could that be accomplished with one packet?!
Media most copied by far were the O’Dwyer newsletter and magazine and Howard Hudson’s PR Quarterly.
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