Book Club Discussion Questions

by Dale W. Laackman

1. Is the role of a newspaper to report the news or to generate a profit? Is it to report the news or create the news? What was the delicate balance created by Joseph Pulitzer in New York and Edwin Grozier in Boston?

2. In ancient Rome people called tribunes were given the job of protecting the common person from the government and the wealthy class. Many newspapers bear the name Tribune. Is the role of the newspaper similar today to those early Roman tribunes?

3. Charles Ponzi’s PR man turned whistle blower, William McMasters, explained his actions by saying: “As a publicity man, my first duty is to the public.” Does the Public Relations industry serve the public? Who is their client? Is the message transmitted the actual truth or a truth passed through a filter or prism and shaped to a new reality? Discuss recent examples.

4. Young students are very good at posing the question, “What If…?” What if J.Q. Jett had not answered the KKK recruitment ad? How might American history been different?

5. Edward and Bessie launched their membership campaign during a “perfect storm” of events in early twentieth-century American history. What was it that made white Protestants so fearful and vulnerable? Would Tyler and Clarke had been as successful 10 years earlier? Or 10 years later?

6. The House subcommittee on the KKK was called into session as a result of the New York World exposé series. Why? It adjourned without taking any action. Why? Is the motivation of an elected official the public good, or reelection? Discuss recent examples.

7. Why was fraternalism such a vital part of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America? Why is it less of a factor today?

8. How are promotion, marketing, advertising, and public relations similar and how are they different? Is PR informational or is it selling? Is the PR message proactive or reactive? What are some recent examples?

9. The role of the PR professional has not changed significantly, but methods have. How is modern technology used by today’s PR agencies? Imagine social media in the hands of Tyler and Clarke…

10.  A big job of PR professionals is damage control for companies, organizations, and individuals. What do they do? What are some examples in recent years? And how do those compare with and differ from the work of the Southern Publicity Association?