Today, #45’s top communications person, Ms. Hicks, said sometimes she has to tell “white lies.” I almost threw up.
Forty years ago, I started my career in public relations, way before there were any degrees — other than journalism — supporting the practice. I joined the Public Relations Society of America, studied everything I could find, and went to every conference I could afford. In 1980-something, I studied for and earned my APR — Accredited in Public Relations — from the PRSA, and I was really proud of that. I had posters made of the PRSA Code of Ethics and tried my best to live up to it. Anyone who is interested in learning what public relations is supposed to be about, here is the PRSA Code of Ethics page:
In 1980-something, my tiny PR firm in a small town in NJ won a Silver Anvil award from the PRSA, the highest industry award there is.
Today, I am so glad to be out of this profession. Communications professionals, whether for business, professional practices, non-profits, or governing bodies, is a public relations job. I see hideous distortions of the practice everywhere I look.
I quit my last job, after having been the senior professional in PR at four universities, because my boss told me to lie. The president was a scholar, but he was not an ethical person. I sat in months of Monday senior staff briefings, where worry about loss of enrollment was the main topic. When the enrollment numbers showed a sizable drop, here’s what I was told to say to the media:
“We planned for this drop in enrollment so we could keep our rising costs down.”
I looked this man in the face and told him NO. Under no circumstances would I lie. His face got red and he dismissed me. And by “dismissed,” I mean it looked like I could keep my job and title, but he would be handling his own PR. This is a common practice in higher education; people are hardly ever fired, but are simply put aside and ignored.
Within two weeks, I resigned. I should not have had to do this.
Today, if anyone in #45’s staff tells him “no,” that person will be out the door. What this means is that there is zero credibility for anything — news, statistics, explanations, policy statements, tweets etc. — spewing from that office. We must assume it is all lies, white or otherwise.
Anyone want to argue with me on this?