A 16-page (nine-point size) transcript of the “Trial of PR” staged by PRSA/New York has been purchased by the O’Dwyer Co. for access by readers (click for PDF).

There is a link to the webcast on the New York chapter website but it can be accessed only if name, company, e-mail and phone number are supplied.

L-R: Panelists Steve Cody, Michael Schubert, Randy Cohen and Paul Holmes.

We do not think viewers of the event should have to cough up such information. The PR Society itself is very tight with information. Only members of the Assembly can view the entire list and they have to ask for it in writing. The last complete Assembly delegate list was published in 2005.

Any Society member accessing the member database has to identify him or herself and such searches become “the property” of the Society, according to a 13-page legal agreement that members are asked to sign.

We don’t think members should be subject to such monitoring. O’Dwyer Co. lawyers have said the agreement is null and void because there has been no negotiations with the members on the “agreement.”

'Jury' Found PR Innocent of Charges

The “jury” of about 85 PR people found PR to be “innocent” of charges that “PR professionals practice deception, are not transparent and do not offer a valuable service.”

“Judge” Randy Cohen, former “Ethicist” columnist of the New York Times, asked how the jury felt about the charges before testimony began and found “maybe four of you agree with these charges and the rest of you do not.”

The jury was mostly young and mostly female.

At the close of the program, another vote was taken and only a few had changed their minds. “Some” had been won over but “not all that many,” said Cohen.

Although set up as a “trial,” Ruder Finn ethics chief Emmanuel Tchividjian, who conducted the program, and prosecutor Paul Holmes of The Holmes Report, did not allow exhibits that were offered to the panel by the O’Dwyer Co. Reporters were not allowed to ask questions during the program.

Hard copies of materials related to the credibility of PR people were given to the panelists (after they had been sent e-mails to them) and members of the audience but were never mentioned. These included the 1999 PRSA/Rockefeller $150,000 study of credible sources of information that found “PR specialist” to rank 43 on a list of 45 sources and a list of ten books on PR with “Spin” in the title.

Stories about the ethics panel can give some sense of what took place Sept. 8 but examination of the transcript is needed for complete understanding of this key event, part of the “Ethics Month” celebration of the national Society.