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O'Dwyer's Newsletter - Nov. 21, 2011 - Vol. 44 - No. 45 (download PDF version)

Page 8 Pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
PR OPINION _____________________

PR Society of America is introducing new definitions of who is a reporter and what is meant by “information” in waging its battle against the O’Dwyer Co.

It is arguing that this writer cannot be a “reporter” because I am “a publisher and salesman” and that while it supports the “free flow of information,” that information has to be “accurate and truthful.”

Publisher/editors are common in media and all bloggers have both duties (if they want to eat). Many bloggers are heads of PR firms who are also functioning as “citizen journalists.”

How can “information” not be accurate and truthful, is our question? It wouldn’t be information if it were false. The Society uses accurate and truthful as “weasel words” to block the flow of information it dislikes.

It should adopt the definition of truth used in court: “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” PR’s mission is often telling the positive side of a story while leaving out other elements.

PRS, under advice from Venable, 500-lawyer D.C. firm, conducts a “slash & burn” legal-type offensive against anyone who dares criticize it.

The O’Dwyer Co. and other critics are hit with a barrage of charges including unethical behavior, “extortion,” violations of the Code of the Society of Professional Journalists, and lack of knowledge of the issues (“You seem to have missed my point,” posted VP-Arthur Yann to blogger Lucy Siegel).

Society Fears Lawsuit

Yann and the Society have doubts about this slam-bang approach as embodied in the 23 pages of charges against this writer that PRS has circulated far and wide.

Yann admits in a posting on PRSAY that the Society was afraid to publish the 23 pages itself because of a possible defamation lawsuit by this writer.

Sending the 23 pages “privately to Mr. O’Dwyer and challenging him to make it public protects PRSA against possible legal action,” he wrote, adding: “While we’re certain there’s no merit to such a suit (we’ve simply used Mr. O’Dwyer’s own words and actions against him), frivolous lawsuits are filed in this country every day, and we’d prefer to avoid that distraction.” That comment is the eighth of 18 postings in the PRSAY dia logue that started Oct. 26 and was shut down Nov. 1 after this writer posted one of numerous corrections that are needed. Usual web practice is to let such dialogues run indefinitely.

PRS and Yann are wildly swinging the legal axe and they could end up inflicting a severe wound on their own selves. The 23 pages, the comments in postings on the PRS website Oct. 26 (referenced above), and the Oct. 19 “Newsroom” posting about the National Press Club’s request for PRS to drop the O’Dwyer boycott, contain numerous false and defamatory statements.

NPC Statement Is Misrepresented

The Oct. 19 Yann statement, which led the opening “What’s New” section of the Society’s website from Oct. 19 to Nov. 18, misrepresents what NPC said in the release it sent Oct. 19 to 390 major media with bureaus in D.C. PRS is obviously worried about the NPC’s stance and has done what it can to undermine NPC’s action.

The Oct. 19 Yann statement says, “And in its own statement, the NPC could not help but concede that many of Mr. O’Dwyer’s actions are ‘unfortunate’ and ‘even highly disagreeable.’ It strikes us as ironic that NPC would question PRSA’s actions, while at the same time excusing Mr. O’Dwyer’s.”

NPC did not “concede” anything about PRS’s charges against us. The sentence by Executive Director William McCarren says, “While we find many of the points in the letter unfortunate and even highly disagreeable, we do not think they constitute a reason to ban a reporter who has been allowed access for 40 years.”

McCarren is not “conceding” anything as claimed by Yann but is saying the “points” raised by Yann are “unfortunate” and “disagreeable.” He is not admitting the truth of such “points.”

This writer in a phone conversation and in e-mails to McCarren challenged all the major points in the 23pages. He decided to take no position except to say that the charges are “unfortunate” and “disagreeable.” They’re all false and twisted just like Yann’s interpretation of what was in the NPC statement.

The PRS Code says “Ethical practice is the most important obligation” of a member but PRS doesn’t put its money where its mouth is. Spending on ethics totaled $2,649 in 2010 and $2,891 in 2009 which is 0.02% of total spending of $10 million. It is the smallest item in the budget.

Legal swords are brandished and waved around threateningly by PRS. It has accused this writer of breaking the law at least a dozen times.

It is Not a Crime to Cover PRS

A Bill of Rights is needed for reporters covering PRS. The Society must stop charging any of them with crimes such as “hacking,” “harassment,” “eavesdropping.” “invasion of privacy,” “falsely characterizing professional credentials,” or “interfering with the employment and educational relationships of leaders.”

It must abandon the claim that it’s “private” because if it were private it would not have to file public 990 financial forms with the IRS.

Reporters should be able to join PRS and have access to all activities and reports including financial documents.

The Assembly and sessions at the national conference should be open to reporters from established media. No meals need be provided.

The restrictive “Media Policy” in the Newsroom must be removed. Demanding that all press contacts with members and officers be cleared with Yann or his staff contradicts the Society’s promise to advance the flow of information.

Yann and his staff should respond to all questions by reporters or members and abandon the policy of non-response.

— Jack O’Dwyer

Page 8 Pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7


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