Response of Jack O’Dwyer to letter to PRSA members in the September issue of Tactics that accused O’Dwyer of “attack journalism.”
O’Dwyer denies this charge but welcomes the opportunity to tell PRSA members about the O’Dwyer Co., of which he is but one member. The company has provided many fine journalistic and research products to PR for 40 years. Its weekly newsletter and monthly magazine have been archived in full text on Lexis-Nexis since 1989, one indication of the authoritative nature of its reporting.
I did not step “far beyond the bounds of accurate and professional reporting” in March in writing about the appointment of Dr. Gail Baker as chair of the Board of Ethics and Professional Development. (give URL to 3/21 web Baker story). She was not a member of BEPS and her appointment was a break with the tradition of picking a chair from among the board of BEPS. On only one other occasion was a non-member named chair of BEPS. This was the appointment of Dave Rickey in 2003.
When Dr. Baker would not return either my phone calls or e-mails, I called and e-mailed Dr. John Christensen, Chancellor of the University of Nebraska. I sent him as well as the PR department PDFs whose URLs are below. These articles have been in existence for years and not one word of them has ever been challenged by the Society.
Within four hours after I sent him these materials, Dr. Baker resigned as chair of BEPS.
One of the PDFs sent is a four-page article published in February 1995 in O’Dwyer’s PR Report that documented the Society’s more than 15-year practice of creating information packets out of copied articles and selling them to members for $18 and non-members for $55. (put URL to PRD story here).
A dozen authors, whose permission to copy had not been obtained, tried to collect royalties but this was rejected by the Society which claimed “fair use.” The authors hired a law firm but legal costs were prohibitive. Three professors were among those whose articles and entire chapters of their books were copied. While the statute of limitations on this has run out, the moral statute of limitations has not.
Another PDF (put URL here) detailed the comments of three college accounting professors on the annual audit of the Society. They said the Society should be deferring a substantial amount of its dues income like most associations and should also show on the balance sheet the more than $5 million owed on the 13-year lease of h.q. at 33 Maiden Lane.
I also told Dr. Christensen that 80% of the Society’s membership (those not accredited) have been barred from seeking national office since the 1970s and that I did not think this was a democratic practice (even though the Society’s Code espouses democratic principles.
I noted that the Society’s first Strategic Planning Committee in 1999 recommended that the APR rule be dropped but the SPC has been ignored.
Some Good May Come of This
The board’s letter attacking me implies that I am a journalist working alone whereas in reality I head a 40-year-old company with a number of products that has been an immense force for good for the PR industry.
The O’Dwyer staff includes five full-time writers and more than a dozen contributing editors including Fraser Seitel, former editor of Strategist and author of one of the leading PR texts, The Practice of PR. He
O’Dwyer’s Directory of PR Firms, now in its 38th annual Edition, listing nearly 2,000 firms, has helped bring literally billions of dollars in business to the firms. Rankings of 204 PR operations documented by top pages of corporate income tax returns and W-3s set high standards for industry measurement.
The PR firms and others recognized this by buying more than 500 ads in the 2008 Directory including 420 expanded agency listings. The Directory is often called the No. 1 source of job leads for PR pros.
The expanded PR firm listings are also on odwyerpr.com, which for many years has been one of three PR news sources that garner the biggest web audiences as measured by Google. Other products are our weekly Jack O’Dwyer’s Newsletter and annual PR Buyer’s Guide listing more than 1,000 products in 57 categories. The Society will not let me advertise the Directory of PR Firms in Tactics even though the Society no longer publishes it own printed directory.
We only want good things for the Society’s membership such as:
(bullet)—The right of all members to run for national office, which has been denied to about 80% of the members since the 1970s on the ground they have not passed the one-day accreditation test.
—The right of all members to be able to express their opinions on the Society website and in its publications. Specific examples of articles that should be carried are Central Michigan’s thoroughly researched and reasonable proposal in 2006 that the Society adopt the governance of the American Bar and American Medical Assns. and make the Assembly its supreme governing body; the current 14-point essay of several PR professors demanding that the Society hold an open discussion and then a vote of all members on bringing back the printed members’ directory, and the 1999 $150,000 PRSA/Rockefeller study that showed “PR specialist” ranked 43rd on a list of believable information sources including publication of the table itself.
–The right of members and the press to have a copy of the transcript of the annual Assembly, which was provided in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
I would name many other needed reforms but space is limited in this venue.
Society Supposed to Be Non-Competitive
I want the Society to stop regarding the O’Dwyer Co. as competitors and accept us as a partner. As a 501/c/6 non-profit, the Society supposed to act like a Chamber of Commerce and be a resource for its entire community. It should not be in competition with what any private business would do according to the Association Law Handbook published by the American Society of Assn. Executives.
The Society has compiled its $4.9 million in cash and investments because it has escaped the 40% federal and state taxes that a regular business would have to pay. It should realize it’s in effect a “public charity” and should recognize its debt to the public.
Above all, its relations with the press should set an example for the entire profession. It should live up to its Code which promises “fairness” to the media and others and to “respect all opinions and support the right of free expression.”