Leaders of the PR/IR industry, in a remarkable show of community, gathered Jan. 13-14, 2003 in Madison, N.J., in an effort to restore credibility to the business community.

Lou Thompson, president of the National Investor Relations Institute, noted that the scandals at Enron, Worldcom and Global Crossing, as well as the dot-com bust, had chipped $7.3 trillion off the stock market since March 2000.

Paid and elected leaders of 19 PR/IR groups spent two days at Fairleigh Dickinson University in an attempt to come up with some solutions.

All sessions of the "PR Coalition 2003 Summit" were open to reporters and on-the-record. This is in stark contrast to today's picture, where almost all PR groups are either in communications lockdown or close to it.

The PR industry, in terms of being responsive to press questions, has staged a vast retreat since then.

An Australian PR group openly says that “PR is dead.”

What they mean is that PR is dead as a means of answering press questions.

Groups Participating

Groups present in 2003 included PRSA, NIRI, IABC, Arthur W. Page Society, Council of PR Firms, PA Council, Institute for PR, National School PR Assn., Council of Communications Mgmt., Corporate Communications Institute and Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College.

Reed Byrum, president of the PR Society, led a session on "What You Believe and How You Act."

Participants included Marion Pinsdorf, Ph.D., Fordham, representing Page, and Martin Taylor, Institute for Global Ethics.

"Trust: What it is and how is it measured" was discussed by Ward White, co-chair of the Institute for PR and Lou Williams of IABC. Among planners of the meeting was Julie Freeman, president of IABC.

Meeting organizer James Murphy, then with Accenture and now in his own firm, concluded the program by reviewing possible next steps for the Coalition.

Murphy received the Alexander Hamilton Medal of IPR last year for lifetime service to PR.

PR/Media Coalition Needed

Flash forward to 2013 and we find a radically different picture.

Not only is PR on the ropes, in terms of credibility and informing the public, but so are media. The latest Gallup poll shows only 23% of Americans have "a great deal" of confidence in newspapers.

Newspaper ad revenues, which were $44.9 billion in 2003, were $25.3 billion last year including web ads and "non-daily publication ads." Newspaper ad revenues were $22.3B.

Traditional media have lost a lot of their clout and stealing a lot of their thunder are "social media."

SM at times resembles a bar-room brawl.

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera on July 16 headlined, "My Case Against Twitter."

'Brings Out Worst in People'

John Sturm

He agrees it can be "a personalized news engine" but also that it "can be so hateful. It can bring out the worst in people, giving them license to tweet things they would never say in real life.”

He notes that CNBC commentator Douglas Kass regularly tweeted his thoughts but stopped after being hit with "the foulest language imaginable." He even received life-threatening tweets.”

Twitter, writes Nocera, with its 140-character limit, "exacerbates our society-wide attention deficit disorder: nothing can be allowed to take more than a few seconds to write or read."

The "negatives outweigh the positives”"of Twitter, says Nocera.

As someone who is being called all sorts of names by PR Society associate PR director Stephanie Cegielski on Twitter, this writer agrees with Nocera.

PR & Newspeople Need to Gather

What is needed now is for newspaper executives to meet with executives and elected officers of the PR groups to tackle the issue of the disintegration of mass media.

Caroline Little has succeeded John Sturm as president and CEO of the Newspaper Assn. of America.

Sturm retired at the end of 2011, collecting a final pay of $4,062,204. He had been CEO since 1995.

The funds had been accumulated since 1996 under a retirement plan made in accordance with the IRS, NAA said. The fund totaled $3,659,442 and was in addition to his pay of $402,762.

NAA, a 501/c/6 non-profit, filed its return on Nov. 14, 2012, the next to the last day for such filings. Initial deadline is May 15 but non-profits frequently ask for extensions on one ground or another.