Last week Mike Winder, mayor of West Valley City, Utah, admitted to creating a false identity as a freelance writer “to try to restore balance” by increasing the number of positive news stories about his city over a two-year period. The deception included a fake Facebook page, the stolen image of a former professional tennis player and representing himself to multiple local publications via email and phone conversations as the made-up freelance writer “Richard Burwash.”
According to Winder, everything he wrote as Burwash was “100 percent truthful, accurate and verifiable.” He has stated publicly that he is not a member of the Public Relations Society of America and not a public relations professional, although he does serve as a director of public affairs for a local communications firm. However, at issue is how this incident reflects on professional communicators, the city Winder represents as Mayor (West Valley City, Utah) and Utah.
PRSA members commit to a Code of Ethics designed to protect the public relations profession and each other.
The Code is designed to promote the public good. Public relations professionals “serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts and viewpoints to aid informed public debate” (PRSA Code of Ethics, Advocacy). Furthermore, we “adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public” (PRSA Code of Ethics, Honesty).
Read the entire article at PRSAY.