Milk wars, PR ethics and Swan Lake

swanlake2.jpgIt’s another one of those weeks. I’m jammed with work and not feeling at all well. But the blog beast calls me. Post, damn it! Post! I swear, in the next life I’m coming back as a trumpeter mute swan. I’ll be the good-looking one on the right.

I shot this photo just before noon today while working from home and gazing out back. Really, I was working from home — honest. Please don’t tell the dean! (If you’re confused, and you should be by now, check my last post.)

Two quick notes on PR-related stories, then I gotta go to work.

cows2.jpgThe milk-labeling war continues. If you followed my two posts about rBGH in milk (here and here), you’ll want to catch this update in yesterday’s Cincinnati Enquirer. Thanks to PRKent grad Stacy Wessels for the link.

Monsanto and grocery giant Kroger are escalating their PR war over milk from cows treated with rBGH hormone (made by Monsanto). Monsanto claims there’s no difference in the milk from treated and untreated cows, and the FDA agrees. Kroger says its customers prefer rBGH-free milk and have a right to know what they’re buying.

In the story you’ll find Kent State grad Meghan Glynn on the front line as chief spokesperson for Kroger. Megan was a student in the first class I taught at Kent State (Ethics & Issues in Mass Communication) back in 1992.

BTW, I did the family shopping this past weekend. At Giant Eagle, organic milk is $3.49 per half gallon. The “other milk” from the hormone-pumped cows sells for $3.09 per gallon. Does it really cost twice as much to be organic? Thank God they don’t have organic gasoline, eh?


Jack O’Dwyer is calling on PRSA for the straight skinny about Dr. Gail Baker’s departure as head of the society’s Ethics Board. Just to be clear, O’Dwyer’s story doesn’t suggest any wrongdoing by Baker, but does say that her resignation closely followed O’Dwyer’s inquiries regarding her appointment to head the Ethics Board. (I can’t link you to the story, as O’Dwyer’s is a subscription site.)

From the O’Dwyer story:

Gail Baker, Ph.D., dean of the College of Communications, Fine Arts & Media, University of Nebraska, Omaha, resigned yesterday as chair of the Ethics Board of the PR Society after pointed out ethical issues at the Society to University officials.

Baker, who served last year as vice chair of honors and awards, was a controversial appointee because she had not been on the EB.

Attempts by this website to reach her via phone or e-mail this month were unsuccessful.

We all know Jack O’Dwyer could be a bit more politic in how he deals with PRSA. At the same time, PRSA could be a whole lot more forthcoming with information about its operations. The society won’t talk with O’Dwyer, period — an odd media-relations strategy.

Jack’s criticism of PRSA is confrontational at times, but at least he’s raising some questions. How come no one else is?

Update: For the record, I asked PRSA (via email) on Monday if there would be a statement regarding the Gail Baker resignation. PR director Joe Derupo responded, also by email, to say that PRSA would have “no further comment at this time.”

I should probably write an angry post, but what the hell’s the use? “No comment” tells me all I need or care to know.


10 Responses to Milk wars, PR ethics and Swan Lake

  1. Blair Boone says:

    As a scurvy ad guy who would sell hormone-laced milk to little children for the right price (or expensive organic milk for an even better price), I won’t comment on the PR implications here. But I have to point out that the swan photo shows, not trumpeter swans, but mute swans, the common park pest and a vile, destructive Eurasian exotic species that destroys native vegetation and native waterfowl and that should be ruthlessly eradicated from North America. I understand they taste really good, too.

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    I’ll get the shotgun and fire up the grill. How about you pick out a nice chardonay?

  3. Bill Huey says:

    On the Gail Baker resignation, Jack O’Dwyer rightly points out in the lede of his report that PRS President Jeff Julin had no business appointing her in the first place. She was just collecting another “service” item for her C.V., and Julin doesn’t know his butt from a warm rock. Gail Baker wasn’t even on the Ethics Board. Not that it’s of any real consquence, because the Ethics Board has done nothing for more than 20 years, but it’s a travesty of governance. Julin might as well have appointed me, except that I resigned from PRSA this month after 30 years of continuous membership.

  4. Blair Boone says:

    Deal. Trust me, your community does not want those things nesting on the lake. In addition to driving off other wildfowl, they’ll attack people, boats — anything that comes near their nest. I read that a cob (the male) actually drowned a swimmer in Michigan who ventured too near.

    This comment still has nothing to do with rBGH, but it is another case of messing with nature. Mute swans were imported from Europe for ornamental purposes, went feral and have become a destructive, even dangerous pest in the U.S. and southern Canada. Now the PR nightmare of controlling or eradicating this invasive species falls on game departments, who are confronted with the usual hue and cry from people who think they’re defending nature (not to mention beauty and truth) when they object to killing mute swans.

    As with the rBGH controversy, exactly what’s “natural” becomes murky. Drinking milk after infancy isn’t natural. Many people are lactose-intolerant because it’s the true natural state. Until certain cultures learned to keep dairy animals, no human drank milk after being weaned. So it’s a matter of where we draw the line between nature and culture, and with rBGH, that looks like a moving target.

    So the labeling battle isn’t about nature, but about what’s legal to say about milk. Being an ad guy, I know that a certain famous brand claimed to be from contented cows. True statement? Not susceptible of proof or disproof, but it is legal to say it. Milk doesn’t contain rBGH? That’s a factual claim and provable, so I don’t see why saying it should be legally prohibited.

  5. Bill Sledzik says:


    As you know, some of my research years back dealt with public perceptions over wildlife management. I’m trying to think how we would ever gain public consent to kill these beautiful birds. Maybe I need to shop for a night scope, eh?

    You did force me to do some homework. Had I done that in advance, I’d have seen the difference between the trumpeter and the mute.

  6. Mike Keliher says:

    Where I shop, the half-gallon of organic is indeed $3.50, but it comes in an expensive glass bottle that, when returned, puts $1.50 back in pocket – for an end cost of $4 per GALLON.

    A little more expensive, but not much. And it tastes better when it’s in the glass bottle with a layer of cream on top!

  7. Bill Sledzik says:

    Layer of cream, eh? I remember the days when I didn’t care about cholesterol.

  8. mediatide says:

    Shotgun and chardonay? Somehow that doesn’t sound right. Shotgun and Stroh’s, however, does.

    I believe that as long as certain foods are consumed in moderation, it should be OK. Someone who guzzles five or six tall glasses of milk every day might have a problem. A shot or two in three cups of coffee each morning is not.

    Same goes for meat. Don’t hit McDogfood’s drive-through four times a week. The occasional burger won’t kill you.

    All of us know of someone who wasn’t too concerned about food additives and wound up living a long, pleasant life. My paternal grandmother was like that, living until she was 94.

  9. Stacy says:

    Since my baby is away at college, I no longer have to support his two-gallon/week habit. However, I learned about 10 years ago that I am lactose-intolerant. I gave up soft cheeses, sour cream and rarely eat ice cream, but I refuse to give up milk. My half-gallons of fat-free Lactaid cost about the same as a gallon of regular milk.

    See the latest news on labeling:

  10. Stacy says:

    Bill, I know you and I agree that cheddar is a food group. You don’t think it’s made from rBST milk, do ya?

    Thank goodness my lactose intolerance doesn’t include cheddar…

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