Michael Kaminer, PR counselor who successfully sued author and columnist Mike Wolff in 1998 when Wolff refused to pay his fees, has used PR Newswire's ProfNet to ask New York area PR practitioners for help on a "state-of-the-union" story on PR in New York planned for the New York Observer in October.

Kaminer
Kaminer
Address is mkaminer@observer.com.

After owning a New York PR firm for 15 years, Kaminer sold it in 2006 to Patrick Kowalczyk who operates it as PKPR. Kaminer is now a working journalist and operates http://michaelkaminer.wordpress.com.

The Observer is owned by Kushner Properties, which is owned by Jared Corey Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump, daughter of Donald Trump.

The New York Post reported in 2011 that the paper has become profitable for the first time since its founding in 1987.

Paid circulation is 51,000 and average net worth of readers is $1.7 million+, advertisers are told.

Kaminer and the paper could give a thorough rundown of the PR scene in the communications capital of the U.S.

The Observer has shown it is not afraid to challenge major power centers.

It has criticized New York University for its satellite school in Abu Dhabi, noting the country is one of the United Arab Emirates where women do not have equal rights with men.

It has slammed the PR of Goldman Sachs, depicting former PR chief Lucas van Praag as a prickly British "mouthpiece" who was one of the reasons the firm received bad press. Van Praag was described as openly dismissive of the press, ridiculing media critics as "troublemaking simpletons."

ny observerWe have talked to Kaminer and proposed areas for coverage to him, including the split between corporate/institutional and agency PR; the influence on PR by the conglomerates, which purchased 19 of the 25 biggest firms in the O’Dwyer rankings; the profusion of PR service companies which are providing technology needed to track the explosion of social media outlets, and the evolution of PR Society of America from a group that was dominated by major PR firms and corporations, many of them based in New York, to one that has been dominated since the 1970s by smaller firms and solo practitioners, many of them from the South.

Policies of the Society have resulted in almost no growth since 2000 when membership stood at 20,266. It is 21,000 currently.

Kaminer Collected for Two Months

palm oil
Wolff
Photo: USA Today

Civil Court Judge Schulman, in a landmark decision, ruled that Kaminer could collect for two of the six months he worked for Wolff because media placements were obtained in those two months.

Efforts to make media placements do not count, ruled the Judge.

Kaminer's agreement with Wolff called for payments of $2,500 monthly for the six-month period May-October 1995. He sued Wolff for $16,788 which also included expenses.

The PR counselor showed the Court clippings of stories published in People and Investors Business Daily in May and September, respectively.

The Court ruled that Kaminer "clearly earned his fee" in those two months. No reimbursement for expenses was allowed because Kaminer failed to provide documentation. He was awarded $5,000.

Wolff Sympathized with Kaminer

Wolff, who joined USA Today last September as weekly media columnist, wrote about the suit for the May 4, 1998 issue of The Industry Standard, then a new publication that covered "business models driving the internet economy."

He wrote that what he mostly got from the PR firm was reports about "lots of unreturned phone calls" from media which the judge ruled did not merit payment.

He said he also got "reports, proposals, and a lot of reaping and sowing metaphors."

Wolff, who wrote a book called Burn Rate, about an internet start-up company, which Wikipedia describes as a "best-seller," expressed sympathy for the PR firm, saying "It’s hard, really hard, to influence the media these days. It’s unpleasant to talk to reporters, they’re peremptory, cranky and ego-bashing."

Collecting fees is a problem for some PR firms. Burson-Marsteller, around the time of the decision in Kaminer vs. Wolff, announced it was writing off $25.5 million in accounts receivable billed for 1997 for clients in Europe and Asia.

Kaminer said he is "looking for perspective from agency heads on the health of the industry, changes over the last decade, effect of social media, etc." Analysts, including reporters, are welcome to reply, he says.