PR people and editors “really need each other” and it will be a sad day if Twitter, Facebook, etc., completely replace face-to-face and voice-to-voice, said PRSA director Susan Walton.
Such sentiments warmed our heart although Walton has been on the stonewalling PRSA board the past four years and rebuffed us in 2010 when, as a PR instructor at Brigham Young University, she was advisor to Forum, the publication of the Society’s student organization.
Neither Walton nor anyone from Forum would talk to us.
Walton, in a YouTube interview posted May 8, 2013 on odwyerpr.com, said she is worried about the ability of journalists to get what they want from the web and the ability of PR people to post their own stories on social media and company platforms.
It’s “much easier for journalists and PR people to live without each other,” she said, noting the decline of face-to-face and voice-to-voice contact. Journalists, she said, need “reliable, capable, knowledgeable PR people” to help them with their stories and PR people need the third-party endorsement a story in the media can supply.
“If we ever get to the point where the exchange of information is completely virtual, we will have lost something very important,” said Walton, who has just co-authored, with Joel Campbell, a 100-page book Making it Work: Improving the Relations Between PR Pros and Journos.
Spats Can Be “Ironed Out” at Meetings
Walton said PR people and journalists have their disagreements but they can be ironed out if they both “step back” from any problem and try to work towards a solution.
She described an incident involving a student journalist who attended a meeting without identifying himself and who wanted to write about it. She dissuaded him from naming any of the speakers at the meeting.
“We were able to come up with common ground just by stepping back and looking at each other’s point of view a little bit,” she said. “If we can do it, anybody can do it.”
How About the Society and O’Dwyer Co.?
We have e-mailed Walton our response to 35 charges of wrongdoing that were in an e-mail to us Sept. 1, 2011 by chair Rosanna Fiske and COO Bill Murray. The Society’s document, in which O’Dwyer e-mails to members and leaders were quoted at length, had all the earmarks of a lawsuit except that it did not go to some court. Venable, the Society’s law firm based in D.C., no doubt played a large role in compiling it.
We’re hopeful Walton will take the advice she gave in the YouTube interview and which is in her book and seek “common ground” with us.
The Society document has e-mails from us in which we try to interest BYU administrators, faculty and students in examining the Society’s sale of hundreds of thousands of copies of authors’ articles without their permission from 1978-1994.
We haven’t given up trying to get some sort of restitution for the 12 authors who formed a committee and investigated filing a lawsuit. None of their publishers, including Prentice-Hall and Longman, offered to help them in their quest. Lawyers advised the group that a lawsuit would not only be expensive, but problematical since copyright law is “so murky.”
A moral debt if not a legal one still weighs on the Society.
Walton, now VP for university and PA, University of North Dakota, won nomination for an at-large post on the national Society board in 2010 over Regina Lewis, chief communications officer of The Potter’s House of Dallas. Lewis, a 25-year PR veteran, would have been the only African-American on the board. Lewis was a Society member since 1992 while Walton had joined it in 2005.
The following passages are from the Sept. 1, 2011 document delivered to Jack O’Dwyer. BYU administrators and students refused to discuss any of the topics we raised.
The Editor of PRSSA’s student publication, FORUM, explained to you via e‐mail that she was “familiar with you and your publications” and “not interested in asking for nor seeing your materials”; that she had “no interest” in speaking with you; and that she would prefer you “not contact [her] or officials of [her] university any further.”
In response, you sent her the e‐mail, excerpted below. You subsequently sent two additional mails, also excerpted below, to officials at the university in Utah where she was enrolled. (Source: Dec. 15, 2008, e‐mail from Jack O’Dwyer to the editor of PRSSA’s student publication, FORUM.)
You said in an e‐mail to me Nov. 23 that you were “informed that you [me] were asked to address any questions or concerns you have to the PRSA/PRSSA headquarters in New York” and that you would “appreciate it if in the future you would go through PRSSA if you have any requests.” Being a PR professional, you must understand the importance of going through the right channels in an organization.
I am wondering who told you to address my questions or concerns to either PRSSA or PRSA and that you were not to deal with me at least until that happened. You are a very important national leader of PRSSA since you are editor‐in‐chief of The Forum (sic). As your bio points out, you are an active member of the Church of the Latter‐day‐Saints (sic).”(vice president, Public Relations), VP‐PR of the Society, contacted at about 3 p.m. today, Dec. 15, said there is no such order from him and that you are free to talk to me as far as he and the Society are concerned.
I have a call into (director of Education), director of education of the Society, who is listed at the top of the section on PRSSA, to see if she has given students such a policy. But as of 4:05 today she has not returned the call. I also called (manager, Student Programs), coordinator of student programs shortly after (director of Education). I left a voice‐mail message with (manager of Student Programs) and will copy them on this e‐mail.
Since the PR Society has severely criticized me in a full page in the September Tactics (attached) I could see where students might not want to deal with me. The American Assn. of University Professors, with 43,000 members, says students must have “conflicting views on contentious subjects” or they are being educationally “deprived.” Depriving or discouraging in any way PR student awareness of the stories and opinions on the five O’Dwyer products would seem to fall under what the AAUP is talking about. I am continuing efforts to clear my name with members of the Student Chapter of the PR Society at (university) as well as faculty who are members of the PR Society. Attempts to gain equal space in Tactics to rebut the full page of false charges against me in 22,000 copies of the publication have gone nowhere.
It would be nice to have an article in The Forum (sic) of the Student Society of which (PRSSA member) is editor but [she] has now told me I am not to contact her again and says I should not contact any school officials, either.
I am unable to e‐mail (university president) directly so I hope you will pass on this e‐mail to him. I believe it’s a matter of academic freedom that [he] should be involved in. Does [he] agree that I should cease attempts to clear my name with school officials and students? It’s hard for me to understand institutions of higher learning turning their backs on information and opinions.