Sam Waltz, 1999 PRSA president, and Art Stevens, a 1999 board member, have claimed that the board did not vote to fight the Strategic Planning Committee’s bid to remove APR as a requirement for national office.

However, the board during that period put out a “Boardroom Report” shortly after each meeting and the report for the July 30-Aug. 1 meeting in Vancouver said:

“Decoupling (APR from office-holding) at this time would send the wrong signal regarding the Society’s commitment to APR.” There’s no question that the board was against the move to decouple APR from office-holding.

There were three former APR chairs on the 1999 board—Roger Lewis, Joann Killeen and Tom Bartikoski.

Steve Pisinski, SPC chair, seeing the SPC’s recommendation rejected, then said that there should be a “full and free debate” on the issue at the 1999 Assembly. He said a petition signed by members of the New York, Philadelphia and other chapters would “insure” such a debate.

The board, which controls the agenda, did not put the APR issue up for debate in 1999. It was not until 2009 that a proposal made it to the floor of the Assembly that would eliminate APR as a requirement for national office.

Stevens said the 1999 board was deadlocked at 8-8 on whether it should even take any position on APR and therefore did not vote on the actual issue itself.

Assuming the board did such a pusillanimous thing, the entire board including Waltz signed the Boardroom Report that said decoupling would “send the wrong signal.”

Waltz and Stevens should ask h.q. for a copy of that Report.

Waltz Was a Tiger

Stevens portrays Waltz as a detached observer at the Vancouver meeting, merely “facilitating” a discussion on APR and “maintaining his objectivity.”

That’s not the Waltz that we knew.

He went after us hammer and tong in 1999, throwing everything he could at us in a bid to damage our credibility and eliminate us as a reporter on the Society.

Waltz was in the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps. From 1967-70 during the Vietnam War.

As countless movies and books have noted, counterintelligence is not just spying but doing everything possible to disrupt the enemy such as spreading lies, poisoning wells, assassinations, capturing and interrogating the enemy, and enticing enemy sources with prostitutes and then blackmailing them.

Anything goes because it’s “The Enemy.”

Patrick Jackson, a revered figure at the Society (Stevens holds the Patrick Jackson Award), had this approach to press relations: “Duck ‘em and screw ‘em.” By that he meant not only avoid press contact but go into the “enemy camp” and do as much damage as possible. Jackson was Society president in 1980.

O’Dwyer Boycott Was Voted Twice

A written statement was given to PR Week April 19, 1999 saying the board and staff would no longer have any contact with this reporter.

Society chair Gary McCormick and COO Bill Murray came to our offices March 19 this year and said the same thing.

The 1999 statement said, “We have attempted to provide the newsletter with facts and information which are routinely absent from the newsletter’s reporting.”

No specifics were given.

Waltz himself told PRW it was also “a matter of the resources and staff time required to communicate with the newsletter.”

As previously reported, at least five major negative developments had hit the Society in 1999.

Members were told to “follow their own conscience” in deciding whether to deal with us.

Despite numerous criticisms from PR executives who, using their names, called the policy “stupid,” “un-American,” “childish,” “ludicrous,” “preposterous” and “unbelievable,” the board in a teleconference June 7 reaffirmed its decision.

Waltz Goes on Attack

Waltz, in an e-mail on Leaderserve, charged us with “personal and professional indignities, abuse, beratement, denigration and other incivilities” that we supposedly “heaped” on Society volunteers and staffers.

What we “heaped” on volunteers and staffers were questions they wouldn’t answer.

We asked Waltz for rebuttal space on Leaderserve and Waltz said we would only get such space if we first printed in the NL a 655-word letter loaded with all sorts of false and scurrilous charges against us. We would not take that “deal.”

We pointed out to Waltz that PR executives used their names in making the above criticisms but that the charges against us were from anonymous sources.

Waltz had us penned in behind a velvet rope at the 1999 Assembly with a guard standing over us with orders to eject us for the day if we put one foot outside the rope. That was the first time we were ever “jailed” at an Assembly.

PRS Employee Speaks Out

The actions of the Waltz board touched off a tidal wave of criticisms including one by a Society ex-staffer, Blane Withers, who was head of the information department.

Ex-staffers in recent years have refrained from any comment on the Society.

Withers told Association Trends Sept. 3, 1999 that the Society’s “official family” demonstrated an “unusually high” level of “selfish and special interest behavior, at times risking the benefit of the members at large.”

Said Withers: “It became apparent that a group of people within the membership was always at odds. The Society acts as a whipping boy for them. The active official family demonstrated an unusually high selfish and special interest behavior…it frustrated and disillusioned me to have a senior body of practitioners not able to set personal agendas aside and put its elbow grease into getting the job done.”

He also told AT the PR industry “didn’t seem to want or expect from the Society staff what I though should be delivered.” He said he thought the Society staff wanted to deliver more.

Mailed Fist School of PR Arises

A sea change in attitudes of PR people to the press started to be evident around 1999.

The attitude was expressed to us by an executive of a financial PR firm, who when asked questions about his client that he wouldn’t answer, added this: “We work 100% for our clients and no percent for you.”

PR pros, who had once considered themselves as mediators and conciliators, positioned themselves as 100% advocates for clients, much like lawyers.

San Francisco Chronicle website contributor Hal Plotkin said March 30, 1999 that he could hardly believe what was happening in PR.

Previously cooperative PR pros had turned adversarial, he wrote. They wouldn’t even help when he asked about satisfied customers. He found PR pros intent on keeping reporters “on message.”

Plotkin attacked Cunningham Communications, saying it had become a “black hole” of non-response.

Contacting Cunningham was like “running a PR gauntlet,” he wrote. “Often it takes weeks to get a response to the most simple requests and even longer to arrange interviews with key executives if they happen at all.”

He said reporters are witnessing “the evolution of a PR bureaucracy that increasingly sees the press as adversaries. In place of information, we get spin. In place of accessibility, we get distance..Silicon Valley’s Regis McKennas are being replaced by a bunch of toe-sucking, high-tech Dick Morrises.”