Jack O’Dwyer is Less Woodward & Bernstein, More Statler & Waldorf

Jack O'Dwyer is Statler & Waldorf, not Woodard & Bernstein
Jack O'Dwyer is Statler & Waldorf, not Woodard & Bernstein

If Jack O’Dwyer’s journalistic credentials were ever in question before, let all doubt be removed with his recent flurry of scandal-mongering.

Responding to PRSA’s thorough documentation of O’Dwyer’s unethical behavior and rationale for his lack of press credentials at the latest PRSA International Conference, O’Dwyer has ramped up his campaign against the organization and is now incorporating students in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Unlike Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who have taken an objective approach to covering the US Government in their careers, Jack O’Dwyer is much more like Statler and Waldorf – the comical gadflies on the Muppets who criticize the performers no matter what they do.

It’$ All About the Benjamin$

The economic backbone of O’Dwyer’s operation is, like much of the traditional media, based on “eyeballs” (ie subscribers, traffic to his website, etc).  In order for it to be financially-viable, O’Dwyer needs to be perceived as being an important figure in the public relations industry where his trade is plied, and to have attention-grabbing material to write about.

It’s likely that, like much of the traditional media, he’s experiencing a decline in revenue as a result of the outdated model his enterprise is based on (this is just a guess, as O’Dwyer would never be as transparent as he demands his interview subjects be).   That’s likely behind his constant claim that PRSA owes him “thousands of dollars” for circulating some of his articles to members (he never filed suit, he’s just probably hoping for a settlement payday).

Moreover, O’Dwyer’s PR has begun trying to monetize his operations by charging for services that once were free (and punishing those who do not pay him what he feels he is owed).  He’s also steadily increased the volume of sensationalism in his “reporting” over the past few years.

For those unfamiliar with O’Dwyer’s Modus Operandi, here’s how it works:

  1. Monitor (legally and illegally) PRSA for opportunities to craft a scandal narrative.
  2. Contact everyone associated with the possible scandal narrative for comment.
  3. Depending on comment:
    1. If they comment, selectively excerpt their comments in a way that reinforces the scandal narrative.
    2. If they don’t comment, widen the network of contacts to include everyone related to the principal individual (including their colleagues, contacts, and even their employers).
  4. If that doesn’t work, rope in third-party organizations tangentially-related to the scandal narrative for quotable comment  (examples include the Society of Professional Journalists, higher education faculty in public relations, the US Justice Department, etc.)

This M.O. doesn’t leave much room for positive coverage or retraction in the event of an errant report.  I would be interested to see if anyone is aware of a SINGLE positive piece of coverage O’Dwyer has produced in the past decade; after all – even critics of PRSA would have to concede that the organization isn’t entirely bad.  Surely they must have done at LEAST one positive thing over the past ten years that is worthy of reporting on.

The Latest Ca$e $tudy of “The O’Dwyer Protocol”

After PRSA’s rebuttal to O’Dwyer, I published a post with video of O’Dwyer at work at the most recent leadership assembly in Orlando, FL.  Let’s watch the O’Dwyer M.O. at work, shall we?  We pick up with Step 2 of the O’Dwyer Protocol:

  • (2) O’Dwyer posts comments on my blog post (to which I responded).
  • (3) O’Dwyer began contacting everyone related to me that he could find, sending:
    •  this email (.pdf) to members of the West Michigan PRSA Chapter board,
    • and this email (.pdf) to the West Michigan PRSA Chapter board as well as several other PRSA-affiliated individuals AND members of Grand Valley State University’s PRSSA Chapter.
    • He received replies from 2 of the recipients and myself (.pdf). [for transparency I’m happy to include my email text]
  • (4) I look forward to finding out whom else O’Dwyer has contacted regarding this matter…

Just think of all the unique visits Jack’s blog is racking up today with this deluge of emails! CHA-CHING! Dolla dolla bill, y’all!

I wonder what would happen if all of the members of the public relations community who are fed-up with O’Dwyer’s yellow journalism were to petition his advertisers (like MWW Group,  Edelman, MonoNews, 5W Public Relations, Hunter PR, Gibbs & Soell, and Levick Strategic Communications) to drop their support of his tabloid rag? … after all – I’m sure they’d be interested to know that he’s having unwelcome contact with college students.

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