Christina Odone should learn to tell the truth

PR 101. Always read the whole publication before responding. As soon as I had finished reading ‘Press and PR partnership – networking or not working’ and Anne Summer’s letter on the same subject I broke off eating my lunch to dash off a response letter to Media Guardian.

Back to my lunch I turn the page to read Christina Odone’s column where she follows up her original comments which sparked off the whole debate about Julia Hosbawm’s Editorial Intelligence venture.

Ms Odone makes the ridiculous claim that "journalists are in the business of exposing the truth, PRs are in the business of twisting it". What arrogant (or should that be ignorant?) nonsense. Journalists are just as likely to twist, manipulate and spin the truth as any PR person is.

The truth is that their are many decent honest journalists and PR people with high moral standards and a strict adherence to the codes of conduct for their respective professions. There are also many many journalists and PR people who wouldn’t know what ethics, honesty and truth were if it was tattooed on their eyelids. Neither profession can claim a moral superiority over the other.

Ms Odone would be better putting her own profession in order than commenting about issues she obviously knows little about.

6 Replies to “Christina Odone should learn to tell the truth

  1. Athough I strongly agree there is no inherent difference in the ethical orientation of journalists and PRs I think you need to take care before ascribing parity to codes of conduct. There are two essential differences between the codes that seek to guide the two disciplines. Firstly, the Press Complaints Commission, though self-regulatory and often toothless, regularly adjudicates on complaints, and is at least taken seriously by the vast majority of newspaper editors; there are no big-hitters who operate outside the scope of its code, which cannot be said for the CIPR.
    Secondly, there are significant philosophical differences between the CIPR Code which is drawn as an aspirational document (members agree to…) and both the NUJ and PCC codes which attempt to impose certain duties on their members (The Press must/ must not… etc).
    Such framings make it easier for people like Christine Odone to make the claim of moral superiority for journalists; her mistake is to try to believe that journalists, too, do not deal in selective truths.

  2. I agree entirely. This Hack V Flack argument is old. We can't live without them; they can't live without us. Let's all accept this fact and move on.

  3. I read the article, but didn't read the blogs. I posted some very similar thoughts in parallel with you (and just restrained myself from typing my more intemperate thoughts.)

  4. Philip, I'm not sure the Press Complaints Commission code is the one that I would compare with CIPR's code. It is more appropriate to look at bodies that actually represent journalists and in whose interest it should be to ensure members act professionally. The PCC is an independent 'watchdog'. An equivalent doesn't exist for PR, although as Richard Bailey says on his post perhaps it should.

    I'm not sure that there is that big a difference between the NUJ's code and CIPR's. The CIPR one says "Members agree to…" while the NUJ's says "strive to ensure" or "strive to adhere".

    The relevant clauses about 'truth' say:

    CIPR – "Checking the reliability and accuracy of information before dissemination; "

    NUJ – "3. A journalist shall strive to ensure that the information he/she disseminates is fair and accurate,"

    Sound the same to me. I can't see the bit in the NUJ's code that says "must". And if anything "agree to" sounds slightly stronger than "strive to".

  5. Stuart, I have expanded on some of these themes on Mediations ( and to an extent I take your point (and Richard's) about the the difficulties in comparing Codes. But I do think that it is more productive to compare the CIPR framings to those of the PCC rather than those of the NUJ.

    The CIPR acknowledges its code to be aspirational, the PCC adjudicates against a set of values and principles drawn up by editors (ie practitioners). The CIPR is trying to create and establish norms of acceptable practice as part of its drive for professionalism, the PCC to delineate and enforce acceptable practice on a mature business model.

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