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Aug
06

Journalist, Heal Thyself First

Shut up. I don’t want to hear another word or snarky remark from journalists about the supposed ethical shortcomings of PR professionals. Not after former broadcaster Mike Snyder created fake social media accounts to wage a public war with Nasher Sculpture Center over the Museum Tower on behalf of his client, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System.

Snyder used fake Facebook accounts to “flame” and attack opponents over the  glare of sunlight reflected into the Nasher by the 42-story condominium tower, which is owned by the pension system. Snyder, hiding behind these personas, posted comments to online news articles defending pension officials and attacking the Nasher Center, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and others, according to The Dallas Morning News. The conflict led the Dallas chapter of the Public Relations Society of America to issue the following sharply worded statement:

“In the strongest terms possible the Public Relations Society of America, Dallas Chapter repudiates the actions of someone claiming to practice public relations. Re: Museum Tower Skullduggery – ex-newsman Mike Snyder, who admits to creating fake social media accounts, does not represent the PRSA Dallas chapter. He is not a member, never has been a member and never will be a member.” - Rand LaVonn, President PRSA Dallas

Snyder has been quoted as defending their use as part of a larger effort embraced by the pension system to “facilitate a community dialogue.” Really? Lying and throwing attack bombs is how you facilitate community dialogue? I must have missed that chapter in my PR class in college.

The paper goes on to quote Snyder as saying:

“Social media is an integral part of this information process and open to anyone who wishes to participate,” he wrote, “and they may participate in anonymity if they choose to do so.”

Snyder is correct…technically. But I’d like to know how he would have responded as a journalist to an interview subject who tried that excuse on him in his broadcasting days. Somehow I can envision high-minded pontificating on the forces of PR Evil attempting to unduly influence the good citizens of Dallas. To be fair, I don’t know if that’s what would actually happen, but with journalists’ history of using PR as their favorite pejorative, it’s a fair assumption.

My point is that ethical behavior is not dictated by the profession you choose, unless you choose to be a crook, which is another subject completely. Ethical behavior is integral to who you are as a person. You don’t suddenly check your ethics at the door, just because you retire from journalism and decide to call yourself a PR person – which doesn’t actually make you a PR person, by the way. It’s not an easy profession, and it takes more than a journalism background, or being a “people person” to be even a mediocre public relations executive, just as it takes more than an ability to read a teleprompter to be a journalist.

From the sound of it, Mike Snyder belongs in neither profession.

3 comments

  1. Sherree says:

    Actually, honest journ-types admit how hard good PR is and don’t want our jobs because they don’t want to be in the middle between stakeholders and the media.

    1. Debra Bethard-Caplick says:

      Too bad there aren’t more of them, then. This isn’t the first time someone has crossed serious ethical lines because they lack ethics themselves, and assume the PR profession has none either. Remember the Utah mayor who was writing fake news stories about his community? He worked for a “PR” agency as well.

  2. Sherree says:

    With all the plagiarism scandals rocking the NYT and other news outlets, journalists would be wise to police themselves before casting stones. One of the first axioms I learned in journalism school was that most news and information is entertainment. So, people can live without what you produce.

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