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November 15, 2011

Statement: PRSA Condemns Unethical Communication Practices of Utah Mayor

Professional Public Relations Association Advocates Ethical and Transparent Communication Practices
NEW YORK (November15, 2011) — The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) today issued the following statement regarding reports of unethical communications practices by Mike Winder, mayor of West Valley City, Utah. The Deseret News (Salt Lake City) reported that Winder had been engaging in deceptive communications practices on behalf of West Valley City by creating a false identity to write news stories for Utah media outlets about the city he represents. According to published reports, Winder used the pseudonym of “Richard Burwash” to submit 13 articles published in the Deseret News, and the Oquirrh Times, a community newspaper.
Statement by Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, PRSA chair and CEO:
The basic tenets of ethical communications practices, as addressed in the PRSA Code of Ethics, require that those representing organizations or governments serve the public interest by advancing the free flow of accurate and truthful information. Open and honest communication is essential to serving the public interest and contributing to informed decision making in a democratic society. The PRSA Code of Ethics clearly states that it is unethical for those who represent a business or organization to engage in deceptive online practices or misrepresent one’s identity or professional affiliation, both of which Mr. Winder has admitted to doing.
Furthermore, the Society’s Code of Ethics calls for communicators to be “honest and accurate in all communications” and to “avoid deceptive practices.” Clearly, Mr. Winder’s actions failed in both regards, which is a disservice to both the public he serves and the media he tried to influence.
At a time of severely low public trust in government, it is imperative that politicians and public relations professionals represent themselves and those they serve in an ethical and transparent manner.
Rosanna M. Fiske, APR
Chair and CEO
Public Relations Society of America
About the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
PRSA is the largest professional organization serving the U.S. public relations community. With a mission to “advance the profession and the professional,” PRSA provides news and information, thought leadership, continuing education and networking opportunities; sets standards of professional excellence and ethical conduct; and advocates for thebusiness value of public relationsandgreater diversity among public relations professionals. Based in New York, PRSA comprises 112 local Chapters; 14 Professional Interest Sections that focus on specific industries and practice areas; and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which is active at more than 320 colleges and universities.
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