Did the PRSA Take the Right Conference Stand Against O’Dwyer?

Veteran PR scribe Jack O’Dwyer’s dust-ups with the Public Relations Society of America have been widely chronicled for years, but the contentious relationship between the two parties went up a notch this week in Orlando at the PRSA International Conference.
O’Dwyer was apparently banned from the event and told PR News that he was prevented from writing a story on a vendor that had a booth in the exhibit hall. “Leaders treated me like I was some kind of slime mold and wouldn't even let me enter the media room,"  O’Dwyer told PR News. “I was banned from the assembly, all main events, the exhibit hall where almost half of the 47 exhibitors advertise with us and the opening night reception where I often say hello to scores of friends.”
It’s obvious that O’Dwyer and the PRSA are anything but “friends.” The PRSA has basically accused O’Dwyer of being an irresponsible journalist in his quest to expose what O’Dwyer believes are irresponsible PRSA financial and organizational practices. In fact, the PRSA drafted a 23-page document that chronicles O'Dwyer's actions.
While O’Dwyer admits that the PRSA had a legal right to bar him from the conference, he contends that morally they had a duty to let him in to do his job. Now, in response to the PRSA’s actions, O’Dwyer is being quite vociferous online, sending out e-mails and posting about the situation on his site.
What do you think? Did the PRSA make the right call in taking a stand against O’Dwyer at the conference, or would it have been better to give O'Dwyer full media access like other members of the media (including PR News)?

7 responses to “Did the PRSA Take the Right Conference Stand Against O’Dwyer?

  1. Scott, did you happen to ask Mr. O’Dwyer just how he was “prevented” from writing his story? Did his phone, email and text all suddenly stop working? Was he unable to meet with the exhibitor in a public area at any time throughout the more than three days he was a guest at the conference hotel?

    As you, yourself, know, PRSA has excellent relationships with the national and international media, many of whom — including PRNews — attended our events this week. Our Code of Ethics, which all PRSA members 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. As you noted, we have provided Mr. O’Dwyer with a 23-page document that outlines our concerns with his professional conduct, which we believe violates multiple tenets in the SPJ Code of Ethics. The SPJ has said that it will not support Mr. O’Dwyer, and has invited him to resign his membership in the organization.

    If you or any of your readers are truly concerned about PRSA taking this course of action, we encourage you to ask Mr. O’Dwyer for a copy of our document and to publish it, so that all can better understand the context in which our decision was made, and appreciate the reasons why we took this unprecedented step.

    Mr. O’Dywer has lost the right to be taken at his word.

    Arthur Yann is PRSA’s vice president of public relations.

  2. O’Dwyer’s appreciates the support this week of the National Press Club through its rebuke of PRSA’s unethical approach of trying to curtail Jack’s reporting.

    To quote NPC president Mark Hamrick:

    “What we find concerning is the solution chosen by the PRSA, which was to ban a reporter who will write stories that may be critical of their organization. …We live in a world where journalist access is too often and too easily denied. We hope PRSA will reconsider their approach and decide next year to hold a convention that does not ban any reporters who wish to cover their activities.”


  3. I disagree with Arthur Yann. The way I see it, PRSA interfered with the free flow of information by discriminating against one journalist. I’m ashamed to be a 25-year-long member of PRSA. For my reasoning, please take a look at my blog post today: http://www.bridgebuzz.bridgeny.com

  4. It’s comical that Greg Hazley calls PRSA unethical, when PRSA was forced to send him (personally) a “cease and desist” letter to stop him from hacking into our private, members-only teleconferences. Guess that’s what Hamrick referred to when he called the O’Dwyer organizaton’s actions “unfortunate” and “highly disagreeable.”

  5. Since PRSA is so concerned with ethics, I would like someone from the staff or board to come to my office and see evidence of wholesale copying of authors’ articles without their permission. What is ethical about that?

  6. If PRSA wants to justify their rationale for restricting Jack, it’s their responsibility to publish the 23-page manifesto outlining his “unethical” behavior. Expecting Jack to publish a self-incriminating document is a bush league tactic at best, and one that suggests the PRSA needs some serious PR counsel.

  7. We are closing further commenting on this post for now. –PR News

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