Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Phair Assessment?

So, I'm reading the May 18th issue of Jack O'Dwyer's newsletter over breakfast this morning and I saw Jack's report on the recent testimony of my friend Doug Simon, the PRSA's Judy Phair and the Television News Directors Barbara Cochran before Congress. There's no question that the current bill that Senators Kerry and Lautenberg have on the table goes way too far - hell Lautenberg wants to start regulating press releases and it all has a scary sense of moving beyond work done on behalf of government entities and into the world of commercial speech. And then I read Judy's quote stating that the PR profession "exists as a profession today because it has established a level of trust with the media and the public." I have never used profanity on this blog, but today I make an exception and say - you must be fucking kidding me! The only reason this bill is even before a Congressional committee is because the public and the media DON'T trust public relations people. The fault in that lies with all of us, but also with the PRSA who has done hardly anything to enforce ethics out of legal fear. Thank god Doug Simon is making sense and putting his money where his mouth is in calling for disclosure in video news releases in a very public campaign. Hopefully a compromise can be reached (with the cooperation of the PR industry) and this doesn't morph into something bigger than it needs to be. But telling Congress that the public trusts PR professionals is ridiculous and foolhardy. And the questions that are being asked now transcend the Armstrong Williams case and get at the very core of some media tactics we all have used. Let's not deny we have a credibility problem. Rather, lets try to fix it before Congress does it for us. Reading comments like that of Phair makes me think maybe toxic sludge really is good for me - and that's a terrible thought, especially when you're trying to have your breakfast!