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March 26, 2008


Steve Cody, managing partner of Peppercom, New York, whose revenues soared 41% to $11.8 million last year (biggest gain in the top ten in New York), threw cold water on a suggestion by PR pro Lloyd Trufelman that PR pros should contribute to a fund for kin of murdered journalists.

Steve Cody

About 1,000 journalists and their aides have died while carrying out their duties in the past ten years. About seven in ten were hunted down and murdered.

Lloyd Trufelman of Trylon SMR last month wrote on this website that PR pros and PR groups should contribute to the Committee to Protect Journalists, New York, which helps families of murdered, injured and imprisoned journalists.

He noted that no PR organizations are listed as contributors on the CPJ website.

Cody, taking up the subject in his March 7, headlined: “Would journalists do the same for us?”

Journalists “Bash” PR Pros

Said Cody, whose firm counts the Columbia Journalism Review among its clients:
“With all due apologies to the family and friends of slain journalists, give me a break.

“Does Trufelman not read the various and sundry bashings of the PR industry by the media? Does he not see the journalism-PR relationship as a mutually beneficial one?

“Would journalists ever contribute money to a ‘Committee to Protect PR People’ who might also work in high-risk zones? (I’m joking btw).

“Last, but not least, is Trufelman’s plea not akin to slapping a PBA sticker on one’s car windshield to avoid paying speeding tickets?”

Josephson Sides with Journalists

A posting on the blog by Ed Josephson asked: “Does this mean that Peppercom, the PR agency that represents the Columbia School of Journalism, is against making a small financial contribution to CPJ and advises other PR professionals to adopt a similar policy?”

Cody responded: “my blog posed the question: if the roles were reversed, would journalists make a similar contribution to our industry? Would you disagree that the answer would be a resounding ‘no?’”

He also noted that Peppercom does not contribute to the CPJ and “what other agencies do is their business.”

'Great and Worthy Cause'

Cody was not available for an interview with this website but said in an e-mail that “Every PR firm should feel free to contribute to the fund for families of slain journalists. It’s a great and worthy cause.”

He said the blog he wrote imagined how journalists would behave if the roles were reversed.

Said Cody: “I wonder if journalists would ever contribute to a fund for families of slain PR pros (some of whom must surely work in war-torn regions of the world). While it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, the point is valid: few journalists are overtly supportive of PR (or will acknowledge the role we play in providing them with leads, angles, etc.). Sadly, many seem to take great delight in bashing our profession.”

Comment on this story
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Richard Braun (3/28):
With gratuitious and callous comments like Cody's, it's no wonder PR "professionals" are regarded by many as flacks and boors. Thank you, Mr. Cody, for reinforcing that reputation.

Arnie Huberman, Pres- Arnold Huberman Associates, inc (3/27):
Cody's basic premise is correct - except this is not an apples to apples situation.

I am not aware of a single PR person ON THE JOB who has lost his/her life because of a third-party action (like war, etc) the nature of PR vs Journalism is such that it is the journos who risk their lives - NOT the P.R. People And since both journalists and P.R. Professionals have to co-exist in the same media universe, helping the families of dead journalists is a good thing, and should be done without regard to a quid pro quo.

My company supports the International Women's Media Foundation, for reporters who have either been maimed, killed, or otherwise terrorized doing their jobs. If PR people were in similar danger, we would support them, too!

Bill Huey, Strategic Communications, Atlanta (3/27):
Of course journalists wouldn't contribute, but then no one ever died doing PR, as Jack Bergen used to say. I think we should take the dues differential PR people are paying to support press clubs around the country (it's 5:1 in Atlanta) and donate the difference to the fund. In Atlanta alone, that would be more than $50K.

Disgusted colleague (3/27):
Whenever you see a sentence that begins "with all due apologies to . . . ." you know that what follows is going to be some really nasty comment. Mr. Cody lives up to expectations. We're talking about people who are dead, Mr. Cody. Can you at least be civil? What a great thing you've done for the image of PR people -- more specifically, hotshots who own hot PR agencies.


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