It's Time for a Universal Code of Ethics for Public Relations

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It's Time for a Universal Code of Ethics for Public Relations Contemporary public relations is a twentieth-century phenomenon that evolved from the press gentry of the 1800s. These old-time press agents played upon the credulity of the public in its desire to be entertained, whether or not they were deceived. Advertisements and press releases were often exaggerated to the point of being complete falsifications. In promoting an attraction, press agents dropped multitudes of tickets on the newspaper editors desk along with the releases. Voluminous publicity for the attraction usually resulted, and reporters, editors, and their families flocked to the free entertainment with scant regard for any ethical constraints (Wilcox, Ault, & Agee 37). One man, Phineas T. Barnum, exemplified such a press agent to the extreme. Barnum is considered the master of the pseudoevent, the planned event that occurs primarily for the purpose of being reportedsimilar to the special events held by public relations practitioners of today. However, modern-day practitioners like to draw the line of comparison between Barnum and themselves at this point. This hardheaded businessman used deception and hoax in his operations and in his publicity and advertising. Nevertheless, a public thirsting for entertainment permitted his exaggerations and people were amazed by the wonders he produced (Wilcox, Ault, & Agee 38). For example, Joice Heath was a slave who claimed to be 161 years old and said she had been George Washingtons nurse. Barnum produced a stained birth certificate as evidence for the public, but after she died, her autopsy disclosed that she was far younger. On the same note, Jumbo, the worlds largest elephant, was brought by Barnum from England wi... ... middle of paper ... ...B. PRSA Members Perceptions of Public Relations Ethics. Public Relations Review Summer (1991): 145-59. Public Relations: The Empirical Research on Practitioner Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 10 (1991): 229-34. Shamir, Jacob, Barbara Straus Reed, and Steven Connell. Individual Differences in Ethical Values of Public Relations Practitioner. Journalism Quarterly Winter (1990): 956-63. Wilcox, Dennis, Phillip Ault, and Warren Agee. Public Relations Strategies and Tactics. New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc., 1992. Resources Bivins, Thomas H. Public Relations, Professionalism, and the Public Interest. Journal of Business Ethics 12 (1993): 117-28. Kruckeberg, Dean. The Need for an International Code of Ethics. Public Relations Review Summer (1989): 6-18. Mencher, Melvin. Basic Media Writing. Dubuque: Wm. C. Brown Communication, Inc., 1993.

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