Carla Branch is a longtime education reporter in Alexandria, Va., and founder of the website Alexandria News
From January to July, she also earned $75 an hour performing PR consulting for Alexandria City Public Schools, the school district she covers on her website.
The Alexandria Times broke the story
, indicating Branch was hired to overhaul the district’s communications strategy. That included drafting “a system-wide and school-specific communication plan, as well as [reviewing]—and occasionally [writing]—press releases, email correspondence indicated.”
Media blogger Jim Romenesko pointed out
that she wrote press releases for the school district—and then published them on her site
Branch had this to say to Romenesko:
“My contract with ACPS has been public knowledge from the beginning and I have discussed it widely with any number of Alexandrians. Had I believed it was a conflict, I would not have bid on the contract nor would I have openly discussed it with hundreds of people over the past six months. I even discussed the matter with another reporter sometime ago. The folks at the Alexandria Times were among the last to know.”
asked the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) to weigh in. Gerard Francis Corbett, the chairman and CEO offered this comment via email:
Whether acting in her capacity as a public relations professional or as a journalist, Ms. Branch had a duty to disclose her relationship with the Alexandria City Public Schools and to the public at large, who she serves as a journalist. Her actions raise serious questions about her commitment to ethical reporting and integrity. The fact that Ms. Branch posted the same press releases she wrote for the school district to her website demonstrates a lack of clarity about her primary role, her uncertain commitment to objectivity and questionable ability to authentically and honestly serve her readers.”
Wonder if Branch will be handling the crisis communications for the school district.