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November 16, 2011

PRSA Offers Ethical Communication Lessons to Elected Officials in Boston Globe Letter to the Editor

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) addresses recent instances of unethical communications by elected officials in a Nov. 16, 2011, letter to the editor of The Boston Globe.
TWO ARTICLES in the Nov. 12 edition of The Boston Globe raised red flags for me as a public relations professional turned public relations professor. Both cited examples of failure by past and present government leaders to embrace transparency and full disclosure in their communication.
The first, “Former state AG goes to aid of ex-Chelsea housing chief’’ (Page A1), refers to Scott Harshbarger’s intervention with Governor Deval Patrick on behalf of a client. According to your reporters, Harshbarger, the former Massachusetts attorney general, “did not disclose’’ to the governor his client-counsel relationship.
The second article, “Mayor used alias to write good-news stories’’ (Page A2), refers to Mike Winder, mayor of West Valley City, Utah’s second-largest city, who, “disguising himself with an alias, . . . has been writing upbeat freelance articles about his town for area news outlets because he claimed the media spent too much time on crime coverage.’’
Open, honest, credible communication begins with forthright transparency and openness.
Apparently both these gentlemen — former and present elected representatives of the people — have forgotten this axiom.
Kirk Hazlett
Milton, Mass.

The writer is a member of the board of the Public Relations Society of America, and an associate professor of communication at Curry College.

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