The death of AT&T PR veteran Marilyn Laurie from brain cancer July 14 (link, sub req'd) saddened us but also set bells ringing in our head.

We have been reading many web stories about cellphone use and brain cancer, including a just-released study of 5,000 such illnesses.

marilyn laurie
It struck us as ironic that an AT&T employee should be felled by a disease that is occurring with increasing frequency. We assume she was a cell phone user like just about everyone but are trying to check this out with AT&T PR.

The World Health Organization Interphone study of brain tumors that occurred between 2000-04 found that top users of cellphones had double the risk of tumors than non-users.

By "top users" they meant those making one call a week for six months or more which would be called almost non-use by today’s habits. The scandal of this study is that its release was blocked for six years.

There's plenty of more recent evidence of the dangers of cellphones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, microwave ovens, laptops, computers and other emitters of electromagnetic radiation.

This is a big PR problem for the cell phone, related industries and media that duck the story.

Stick Your Head in a Microwave Oven?

You might as well stick your head in a microwave oven as use a cell phone or cordless phone because the radiation is the same, say scientists. Stay at least ten feet away from any operating microwave, the warning goes.

France has banned the sale of cellphones without headsets or earpieces that keep the phones away from the head and also banned cellphone ads to those under 14 and use of cellphones by children under six.

Prof. Joel Moskowitz of the University of California at Berkeley says heavy cellphone use for a decade or longer “increases brain tumor risk by at least 30%.” Teenagers who use cellphones heavily have 3-5 times the rate of brain cancers, said research Lennart Hardell of Sweden.
An article in the May Harper’s predicted an epidemic of brain tumors in about 20 years and said the ad power of the cellphone industry is silencing the debate.

“Journalism in the U.S. is dead,” said Cindy Sage of Sage Associates, which consults on EMF-health issues.

Comparisons are being made to foot-dragging about the dangers of smoking, asbestos and high-dosage X-rays.

A more than full-page feature in the New York Times on May 27 on the dangers of radiation, pollution, etc., in the home said in the first paragraph, “beware your Wi-Fi!”

A new study has been launched in Europe covering 250,000 people.

Cellphone users who became brain cancer victims include Ted Kennedy ("cellphone addict") and Johnnie Cochran, whose lawyer cited his fondness for the cellphone. Diane von Furstenberg developed a salivary gland tumor.

AT&T had a full page ad for its cellphones in yesterday's NYT but there was no mention of headphones.

PRSA's Pathetic "Leadership" Hits Georgia

The visit of PRSA chair Gary McCormick and COO Bill Murray to the Georgia chapter July 15 was proof positive, for anyone who needs it, of the ineptitude of national leadership.

McCormick gave a far too long 40-minute pitch for HGTV, and Murray, who got a $50,064 raise in 2008 to total of $359,866 in pay/benefits, did not speak at all. Neither Murray nor the board will tell us what he is making in either 2009 or 2010.

McCormick should speak to the New York chapter forthwith and so should chair-elect Rosanna Fiske, who is spending the year in total silence as is the tradition at the Society.

If she refuses, she should withdraw as chair-elect. Neither the Society nor the industry can stand another year of a non-leader who is in the chair’s post basically to promote his or her employer. Fiske, making her fourth trip to the board, already has a solid record of press avoidance.

What PRSA should be tackling is the catastrophic loss of media jobs which is mirrored in PR jobs. Media job loss is three times the rate of other job loss and totaled 45,599 jobs from Jan. 1, 2008, to late last year according to UNITY’s Layoff Tracker Report.

McCormick Admits Low Profile

Without a trace of irony, McCormick, after introducing himself and Murray, said, “Many of you probably don’t know who we are.”

Of course they don’t. M&M have mostly been in hiding. McCormick had only spoken to six of the 110 chapters this year (only one in the top 20) and is scheduled to speak to only two more.

Georgia, second biggest chapter with nearly 900 in its area, was not on the official McCormick schedule (only released after we asked for it) and we think he only added Georgia at the last minute since the board was meeting the next day in Atlanta.

Attendees, when they finally got the chance, questioned McCormick on the issue of the day—the request by the Committee for a Democratic PRSA that the board support its proposal to remove the APR requirement for board and officer posts.

McCormick Ducks APR Question

McCormick wouldn’t give his personal opinion, saying we would all have to wait and see what the Assembly does Oct. 16 (the Assembly being nearly three-quarters APRs). “It’s not my place to decide,” he said.

Here is a “leader” who refuses to lead. He is only a minor figure in Scripps Networks Interactive, not listed among 16 “leaders” of the company and not even listed among its three press contacts.

The Society is “led” by too many people who have not risen to leadership posts in the business world and who flunk the test of leadership when they gravitate to the top of this organization.

Murray, whose speech impairment was noted by several of the attendees, is unsuited to be “president” of the Society because he rarely appears anywhere. He had no background in PR while the staff heads of all the other major professional groups (ABA, AMA, AICPA, ASAE, etc.) are professionals of the respective occupations.

His lack of understanding of PR and the press was proven when he came to our office March 19 and said he and the Society simply “choose” not to deal with us. Now he and the Society have to deal with nearly 350 members who are in open revolt against this and other PRS policies. This includes nine Fellows and nine PR professors.

McCormick, interviewed after the meeting by a reporter hired by this website, had a “No” for just about all the questions put to him.

Compiling a list of Assembly delegates is not national’s job, he said. There is no need for a PDF of the 21,000 members nor any need for a list of all the h.q. staffers. There is no need for a midtown New York facility. The downtown h.q. is only "three to four stops on a train." He does not favor audiocasting the Assembly nor providing transcripts of it. As for proportional voting by chapters (a chapter with 20 members would get two-tenths of a vote), he said not one member has proposed this.

IRS Form 990 (which gives the salary/benefits of Murray and five other staffers) and which was initially due May 15, will be filed “when it is available.” The reason he is speaking to only nine of the 110 chapters is that he only goes to chapters that invite him. As for the Society breaking Robert’s Rules (by allowing proxy voting, passing a bylaws revision without discussing every article in the revision, etc.), he said Robert’s Rules are only “advice.”

The June "Leadership Rally" is considered the “most valuable thing PRSA delivers to attendees.” So why not audiocast it or make a PDF of the proceedings?

Real Leaders Are Needed

The PR industry, in one of its greatest crisis periods ever, with the loss of media also meaning also the loss of PR jobs, needs real leaders at the helm of its national organization—those who have proven their mettle in the business or organizational worlds.

It’s about time the Society lived up to the “America” in its name and opened elections this summer to members (whether APR or not) who will tackle major issues via public debate and discussion.
The Society’s absorption with its own workings is finally catching up to it.