The difficulty that an organization has in controlling a message in the “Wild West” of the Internet and social media was shown last week as criticism was heaped on PR Society of America for its formal boycott of employees of the O’Dwyer Co. and any O’Dwyer “assign.”

The National Press Club sent a release to 390 national media expressing “disappointment” with the Society and urging it to remove the boycott.
Individual bloggers were unrestrained in their criticism of the PRSA policy. A debate on the policy drew 18 comments on the PRSAY blog.

Opinions on the policy are being sought from the Institute for PR, the Society of Professional Journalists, ProPublica, the New York Financial Writers Assn., Council of PR Firms, and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

One news medium, PR Watch, criticized the boycott while Tonya Garcia of PR Newser said reporters in general should be given access even if they “reveal truths that subjects aren’t too pleased with.”

PR News conducted a poll of its readers, asking whether or not they agreed with the boycott.

PRSAY Hosted Debate

The most action was in SM, including Twitter and LinkedIn groups and in the PRSAY blog.

Four individuals posted strong condemnations of PRS on their blogs including Lucy Siegel (“totally unprofessional, childish”); Ed Lallo (the Society “can no longer speak effectively for its members”); Jane Genova (“dumb-as-dirt PR”), and Ruth Thaler-Carter (“not appropriate in terms of freedom of the press”).

Discussions of the boycott took place on all these sites.

The biggest discussion, totaling thousands of words, was on PRSAY of the Society, its “open-to-the-public” blog. Only entries that pass a censor get posted.

Up until now, PRSAY had never carried anything sent to it by the O’Dwyer Co., although had carried thousands of words of Society leaders and staff.

The 18 comments plus the initial posting by VP-PR Arthur Yann included charges that Jack O’Dwyer writes “outright lies,” and is “unethical,” “a hacker,” “malicious,” “a nuisance,” and guilty of “downright hateful tactics.”

Sixteen of the entries were critical of O’Dwyer. One brief pro-O’Dwyer comment said some O’Dwyer points “have merit” such as PRS’s “lack of transparency, the APR issue [non-APRs are blocked from national office] and the Society’s invisibility in representing the profession on the national stage.”

A posting by Jack O’Dwyer at 1:30 p.m. Friday Oct. 28 described the Society’s practice of selling copies of authors’ works without their permission from about 1980 or earlier to 1994 when an O’Dwyer expose resulted in the closing of the “info pack” service.

PR Profs Asked to Judge Society’s Policy

PR professors are also being asked to judge the Society’s policy that includes not only a bar to any O’Dwyer employee or “assign” covering Society events, but a campaign to discredit Jack O’Dwyer.

The written ban is in 23-pages of complaints about O’Dwyer coverage. The document was evaluated by the National Press Club which said that even though points raised by PRS were “unfortunate and even highly disagreeable,” they were not enough to bar O’Dwyer coverage.

NPC noted that journalists express concerns about the ethics of what PR pros do.

McCormick Was One of the Worst PRS Chairs

Yann believes this website is too harsh with elected leaders and can’t understand how “objective” reporters can have opinions on something.
Opinions are part of journalism as long as they’re labeled opinions.

Gary McCormick
Gary McCormick
Our opinion, supported by the facts stated below, is that Gary McCormick, 2010 chair who resigned from the board Oct. 4, was a big disappointment not only to us but others — an employee of an organization with one of the greatest names in U.S. journalism who failed to live up to the promise of that name.

We have lined up facts below to support this opinion and welcome any rebuttals from Yann. What we present is “information” to support our view.

The PRS Code talks about “accurate and truthful information” but information cannot be qualified. It’s ipso facto truthful.

That McComick resigned Oct. 3 from the board is a piece of information as well as the fact that he came to our office and said PRS would not deal with us. Yann is now free to line up his own pieces of information in support of McCormick.

McCormick is the first executive committee member ever to resign while still in office and the only sitting director ever to resign twice. He had resigned in 2006 when director Ron Owens also resigned. McCormick had two years to go in his term.

After serving as chair of PRS for a year and reaping publicity for the HGTV unit of Scripps Networks Interactive, McCormick owes PRS and the entire PR industry a better explanation of his last minute departure than just “personal and professional reasons.”

Was he trying to embarrass the board or express his displeasure with it?

He passed by us quickly on his way to the Assembly Oct. 15 and we asked him, “Why did you resign?” He just kept going and refused to answer. We later saw him in the hotel bar several times and he looked perfectly healthy.

'White Knight' Image Crumbles

This reporter was encouraged when McCormick got the chair-elect nomination for 2009 and pledged to create a strategic planning committee with reporters, African-Americans and other outsiders to Society leadership on it. Sarbanes-Oxley, to which PRS is “committed,” calls for such outsiders.

However, no such thing ever happened. McCormick did not raise his voice when the 2009 nomcom rejected African-American Ofield Dukes in his bid to be an at-large director.

Not only was Gold Anvil winner Dukes rejected, but so was African-American Regina Lewis who sought an at-large seat in 2010. McCormick and others should have stepped in and read the riot act to the nomcom.

McCormick was on the sidelines in 2010 when staff allowed this reporter admission to the Assembly but demanded $1,275 if I wanted to cover any of the general sessions.

O’Dwyer (Verbally) Assassinated in Own Office

Not a peep ushered from McCormick when I reported that a delegate (as described by Yann) verbally assaulted me and threatened physical harm when I was standing in front of the Washington Hilton after the 2010 Assembly.

McCormick’s worst caper was coming to my office on March 19, 2010 with COO “Blackball” Bill Murray when both of them spent an hour denouncing me. They wouldn’t admit there is anything good about the O’Dwyer Co. and refused to look at the box of ripped-off articles that the Society sold without permission of the authors.

Murray did almost all the talking. McCormick wanted to leave after about ten minutes when he saw I was not buckling under.

What would founder E.W. Scripps have thought of that performance? Scripps has a 22-page Ethics Manual (PDF) that espouses the highest of principles and standards for company employees.

Another disappointment was McCormick’s statement in mid 2010 that the Society could not conduct direct e-mail elections because of technical and legal barriers. The board had pressed for approval of such elections throughout 2009. Ignored is the Condorcet free, secure e-mail voting system has been used by 60,000+ organizations.

Although a member of the 2011 executive committee, McCormick has been silent about the O’Dwyer boycott and the stream of anti-O’Dwyer comments on the Society website as well as similar comments posted by Yann on other websites.

Gave Ad Pitch to PRS/Atlanta

McCormick’s title is “director of partnership development.” He is not listed among the PR staffers at SNI. PR pros who heard him speak for 40 minutes to the Atlanta chapter July 15, 2010 said that the speech was basically a pitch for HGTV. If you advertise on the program, you become its “partner,” they said.

Like almost all chairs and presidents of the Society in recent years, McCormick’s appearances before chapter memberships were rare. Our records show he only visited seven of the 110 chapters. Current chair Rosanna Fiske as only visited two as far as we know. Yann has not disputed that statement.

No elected chair or president of the Society has addressed the New York chapter in more than 20 years. Before that, an address by the president to the chapter was practically mandatory and often took place at the final lunch in June.