It’s important to preface this post by noting while I’m a PRSA member – I’m no shill for the organization.
I support PR Watch and the Center for Media and Democracy – in fact, I believe I’ve even contributed financially to them in the past. I enjoy their Media Minute (and I’m glad it’s once again being produced), and I’ve frequently recommended their tool sourcewatch.org to colleagues and students (and contributed to it). I own all of John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton’s books (and my copy of “Toxic Sludge is Good for You” is even autographed from when I met Rampton at a lecture he gave in Grand Rapids). I’ve also frequently criticized PRSA.
That said …
… this analysis by Anne Landman of PR Watch (“The Battle Between O”Dwyer and PRSA) is completely misguided and full of fatal flaws and it seriously impugns PR Watch’s credibility – something I’m truly sad to see.
Here are some of the problems:
- Landman failed to note in the initial publication of the piece that Jack O’Dwyer is a member of the PR Watch staff (a fact only corrected when Arthur Yann, VP of PR for PRSA pointed it out).
- Landman falsely identifies PRSA President & COO William Murray, CAE as having previously worked for Phillip Morris (as a way of tarring his reputation by association) – confusing him with R. William “Bill” Murray. I was disappointed to see that grievous and sophomoric error is still in place on SourceWatch.org.
- Nowhere in Landman’s analysis does she mention that PRSA has hard evidence demonstrating O’Dwyer’s organization illegally accessed internal PRSA conference calls AND hacked into the PRSA members-only website.
- Amazingly, nowhere in Landman’s editorial does she mention O’Dwyer’s strident claims that PRSA owes him money because it duplicated some of his content as part of its clippings-sharing service many years ago (which is the primary motivator behind his aggression toward the organization).
- Landman attempts to bolster O’Dwyer’s credibility by citing a Forbes Magazine article which was also seriously deficient in its analysis.
- Landman name-checks Wendell Potter, but doesn’t note that PRSA made him a featured speaker during its 2009 International Conference.
- Landman incorrectly describes O’Dwyer’s criticism of PRSA as going back “a few years” – but O’Dwyer has been a caustic opponent of PRSA ever since I was an undergraduate student in the Public Relations Student Society of America back in 1999 (that’s more than ‘a few’ years ago).
O’Dwyer isn’t barred from attending the PRSA International Conference because the organization fears he’ll produce unfavorable reporting. They’re barring him because he’s NOT A JOURNALIST. He has routinely violated the Code of Ethics prescribed by the Society of Professional Journalists (of which O’Dwyer is a member).
O’Dwyer is a profiteer with a financial vendetta who has found it valuable to criticize PRSA (which is why he focuses disproportionate attention on them, virtually ignoring all other professional public relations organizations). He’s also turned his criticism to any organization he feels owes him money (like the PR firms that declined to pay to be listed with his service) – using his faux-journalistic enterprise to criticize them as a way to extort money from them.
I urge PR Watch to reconsider this line of attack. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms to make of the PR industry and PRSA – but Jack O’Dwyer is not the horse you want to back in doing so.