It’s a good thing that Dave Berkman is a “former” University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee journalism professor. It would be a serious shame if he were still spewing garbage on the campus of my alma mater.
In an article in Milwaukee’s Shepherd Express examining local television news and what the paper calls local stations’ “shortcomings,” Berkman throws out a truly bizarre comment that makes him the leading contender for this year’s “WTF Did He Say?” award. Apparently speaking from his own little corner of the Twilight Zone, the prof says: “It’s a moral contradiction in terms when you couple journalism with PR, where students are taught to lie.”
I had to wait for my anger to subside and my hands to stop shaking before I wrote this commentary in response to Berkman’s sanctimonious, out-of-touch, pointless, and completely untrue assessment of public relations. I earned a journalism degree at that same school, before Berkman came on the scene with his poisonous rhetoric, and the faculty I knew were members of the working press. They knew about the real world of journalism and not one of them ever suggested that PR people should lie as part of their job or their nature.
I’ve been blessed to make a career for myself in the practice of public relations for 37 years. I love what I do. I take it very seriously. I’ve never told a lie to the media or the public in my job. The only time I was told by an employer to do so, I quit my job rather than damage my credibility and that of my profession. It was the highest paying job I’ve ever held, and I just walked away. Poorer, but far better off.
Honesty and accuracy are the most important tools available to the PR practitioner. I’ve always believed that lying is the one sure way to damage yourself, your career, and your employer irreparably. Lie to the media or public? That’s called “professional suicide.”
So, with all honesty and accuracy, I say to Dave Berkman: “You don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about … so it might be a good idea to stop talking!”
Johnson Direct, LLC
The comments expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Johnson Direct, LLC.