To the editor: As the chair of the largest association of public relations professionals in the U.S., I found Virginia Heffernan’s Feb. 2 op-ed, “Who is Hope Hicks, anyway?” to be a disservice to journalism, even as an opinion piece. To claim “lying to the media is traditionally called PR” is inaccurate (in reality, lying is traditionally called “unethical”) as well as insulting to the more than 21,000 members of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) who pledge to uphold a detailed Code of Ethics in order to join our organization.
At the heart of what we pledge is “Truth, accuracy, fairness, and responsibility to the public.” We won’t lie or mislead. We play fair. Basically, we don’t do anything that we wouldn’t want to have widely reported by the news media. Operating that way is the right thing to do, and it builds trust with our clients, employers and the news media—which is good for business as well.
Every profession can have bad actors, or good people who make mistakes, and calling them out is a journalistic responsibility worthy of public respect. Smearing an entire profession in the process of criticizing an individual practitioner is akin to equating Ms. Heffernan’s work and the standards of the Los Angeles Times with those of the National Enquirer. It’s the kind of cheap shot that gives unfortunate credibility to cries of “fake news!” There is actual evidence to suggest that the majority of journalism and public relations professionals are better than that.
Anthony D’Angelo, APR, Fellow PRSA
Chair, Public Relations Society of America
Professor of Practice, Public Relations
Syracuse University, Newhouse School of Public Communications