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October 19, 2011

Statement: PRSA's Decision to Deny Media Credentials for Industry Publisher Jack O'Dwyer

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) today issued the following statement in response to concerns raised by the National Press Club regarding PRSA's decision to deny media credentials to its Leadership Assembly and International Conference to industry publisher Jack O'Dwyer:

On Oct. 14, I had a very cordial and extended conversation with Bill McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club. I appreciated his courtesy in reaching out to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) to better understand the circumstances under which PRSA denied industry publisher Jack O’Dwyer media credentials to attend PRSA’s Leadership Assembly meeting and International Conference, which took place Oct. 15-18, in Orlando, Fla.
 
PRSA has excellent relationships with the national and international media, many of whom attended our events this week. As I explained to Mr. McCarren, the PRSA Code of Ethics, which all members of PRSA are required to follow as a condition of membership, promotes the “free flow of accurate and truthful information.” As such, our policy is to give any member of the media access to our leaders, volunteers and events.
 
However, as we espouse and require ethical behavior on the part of our members, we cannot tolerate and accept unethical behavior on the part of a representative of the media. Furthermore, we cannot allow a journalist to disrupt our meetings or degrade the experiences of the PRSA members and other professionals who attend our events. Even without having been given press credentials, Mr. O’Dwyer was a guest at our conference hotel for more than three days, during which time he initiated a number of unwanted, unwarranted and uncomfortable interactions with Conference attendees, presenters and exhibitors.

We have provided Mr. O'Dwyer with a 23-page document that outlines our concerns with his professional conduct. His conduct also prompted the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to invite Mr. O’Dwyer to resign his membership in that organization. And in its own statement, the National Press Club could not help but concede that many of Mr. O'Dwyer's actions are "unfortunate" and "even highly disagreeable." It strikes us as ironic that the National Press Club would question PRSA's actions, while at the same time excusing Mr. O'Dwyer's.
 
We encourage Mr. O’Dwyer to make this document public, so that the casual observer can better understand the context in which our decision was made, and appreciate the reasons why we have taken this unprecedented step.
 
Arthur Yann
Vice President, Public Relations
Public Relations Society of America
 
Reporters wishing to speak with PRSA regarding this matter may contact Arthur Yann, vice president of public relations, at (212) 460-1452 or arthur.yann@prsa.org.
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