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Huge article in NY Times' Sunday Business has Jack O'Dwyer's name written all over it.

When it was revealed in early January that TV host Armstrong Williams had been paid $240,000 by the Department of Education to promote its "No Child Left Behind" initiative during radio and television appearances, newsletter editor Jack O'Dwyer was not satisfied with the coverage.

Even after administration officials admitted the illegal arrangement with Williams, even after President Bush promised that it wouldn't happen again, even after similar arrangements with other government agencies and so-called independent reporters were uncovered, and even after extensive media coverage, including a lengthy Frank Rich New York Times column condemning the incident, Jack O'Dwyer still was not satisfied.


Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, "The Inside News of Public Relations and Marketing Communications," wrote that none of the articles named the public relations firms involved in contracting the "undercover pitchmen."

Federal law prohibits covert publicity or propaganda campaigns.

O'Dwyer wrote extensively in his weekly and online newsletter all through January and February about the "sleazy" arrangements.

The PR firm involved is Ketchum, one of the largest PR firms in the nation and a subsidiary of the giant advertising conglomerate Omnicom.

In his weekly newsletter, Jack condemned the Ketchum principals for refusing to speak to the press. He called on the Public Relations Society of America to investigate these industry leaders' conduct, perhaps censure them, perhaps even expel them for allegedly illegal activities and violations of the PRSA Code of Ethics.

Neither Ketchum nor PRSA answer Jack O'Dwyer's calls.

Meanwhile, we confidently assume, Jack goaded the mass media to tell the full story--that is, Ketchum's complex contracts with the U.S. government.

Enter The New York Times

O'Dwyer's efforts paid off in a major article in The New York Times--about 100 column inches plus photos, sidebars and an illustration that dominates the first page of the February 13 Sunday Business section.

The article, titled "Spinning Frenzy: P.R.'s Bad Press," by Timothy L. O'Brien, explores unsavory contracts between the government and PR firms and also the debilitating effects of the takeover of most PR firms by ad agencies since the 1980s.

Yet, even the investigative reporter O'Brien was unable to reach Ketchum or Omnicom executives. That article put Jack O'Dwyer hammering out a 2-page Commentary that he e-mailed to his subscribers the next day, Monday, February 14.

"We applaud the NYT for putting an excellent reporter on the story who had no previous prejudices and who wanted to give the field a fresh look,.

"O'Brien even covered the history of PR dating back to the days of Ivy Lee at the turn of the last century," Jack wrote.

"The Achilles heel of the PR industry was quickly encountered by O'Brien when he found that the leading players refused to be interviewed."


O'Brien wrote near the end of his long article, "Yet it is Ketchum's imbroglio with Mr. Williams and the Education Department that seems to have struck a particularly indignant nerve among some longtime public relations analysts.

"'This is the Three Mile Island of the P.R. business,' said Jack O'Dwyer, a public relations gadfly in New York who heads a research firm and publishes a newsletter bearing his name."

We applaud Jack O'Dwyer for his dogged practice of the best in independent newsletter journalism--gadfly, relentless investigative reporter, advocate for the highest standards of the industry he covers, and goad to the big media.

O'Dwyer, 271 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016, 212-679-2471,
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Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Feb 15, 2005
Previous Article:Bill Moyers on access to government records.
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