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Pr: The Pot Calls The Kettle Black

Readers Report


In "The high priest of hype" (Books, Aug. 17), Marilyn Harris unfairly maligned the thousands of people who make an honorable living in corporate public relations. As someone who has practiced corporate public relations for 16 years, I take issue with Ms. Harris' statement that "In PR, truthfulness is rarely even on the radar screen as a value, except perhaps as a convenient option or legal consideration."

As in any profession, there are some PR people who do not maintain high ethical standards. But Harris has chosen to paint all PR people with the same brush, in the same way that some people would smear the journalistic profession by pointing to the unethical practices of tabloid journalists. BUSINESS WEEK should know better than to smear the thousands of hardworking PR people who have assisted them in putting out an accurate magazine every week by helping reporters check facts, arranging interviews with executives, and in some cases even providing interesting story ideas.

Bernard J. Kilkelly


Corporate Communications

Enhance Financial Services

Group Inc.

New York

Marilyn Harris' characterization of the public-relations industry is unfair and inaccurate. While claiming that journalists remain committed to seeking the truth, she contends that "truthfulness is rarely even on the radar screen" in PR. This is a gross distortion. We advise our clients that rule No.1 of media relations is to tell the truth. Ours is not the only PR agency to have resigned accounts or declined business from companies that want professional liars, not professional communicators.

At best, Harris' analysis is poorly timed, given recent examples of journalists caught writing columns with invented characters or filing false stories. Viewed through the prism of these unfortunate experiences, media might want to think twice about throwing stones at PR people from their glass houses.

Robert W. Pickard

Executive Vice-President

Environics Communications

Stamford, Conn.Return to top


Thank you for "The plight of the ethnic Chinese" (International Business, Aug. 3). Your timely and accurate article is the first time I have seen the status and treatment of Chinese Indonesians discussed in print. You have courage to inform the public of how essential and progressive the overseas Chinese have been in Indonesia's economic life. For eight or nine generations, the Chinese have contributed in many ways to the agriculture and industry of Indonesia. My Indonesian-Chinese friends were proud of gaining expertise and applying their skills to modernizing the archipelago. Now, the companies, plants, and businesses they worked hard to build lie in ruins.

One point you did not mention was the emigration of more than 100,000 Indonesian Chinese from Java in 1959-60. Social unrest, the closing of Chinese schools, and loss of confidence in the financial system caused many families and young persons to leave Indonesia. In that period, most of the emigrants departed for southern China. Now, this cycle is repeating itself with vicious overtones. Many of these Indonesian Chinese live in Hong Kong. Since those holding many levels of jobs left, Indonesia's standard of living has suffered. If Indonesia as a whole is to return to prosperity, the country desperately needs the skills, education, and capital that only the Chinese can provide.

James C. Carey

Wilmington, Del.

I am outraged by the remarks made by the newly installed Indonesian President B.J. Habibie. One cannot help but notice the indifferent overtone of his stance on providing basic physical protection to the Chinese and preventing further violence. Habibie is shameless to imply that if the Chinese were not to "cooperate," they would see their assets burned to the ground and suffer the fate of murder, gang rape, and torture. Words such as these can only be construed as a blatant declaration of government-sponsored extortion and threat against the Chinese, whose only crime is running the country's economy as law-abiding citizens of Indonesia.

Inaction on the part of the Indonesian government to protect the Chinese during the riots only fosters the traditional attitude of discrimination and distrust long accepted by Indonesian society. It also makes evident the all-too-willing mentality of those in power to use the Chinese as scapegoats for the massive economic failure triggered by their reckless monetary practices, flawed policies, and, most of all, rampant corruption. Habibie must take immediate measures to curb further violence, punish the perpetrators, and guarantee basic human rights to his citizens of Chinese ancestry. The world does not need to witness another campaign of ethnic cleansing.

William C. Liu

Hoboken, N.J.

Your article on the anti-Chinese attacks in Indonesia reveals a level of hatred and government-condoned violence many of us in the West can hardly imagine. Equally horrifying were attempts by President Habibie to portray the attacks as not being anti-Chinese. I think the world, and especially the International Monetary Fund and the U.S., should demand certain minimum standards of human decency from the Indonesian government before lending a helping hand.

Tomas Kong

San Mateo, Calif.Return to top

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