Guiniven N&R op-ed
targets responsibility


School of Communications faculty member John Guiniven wrote an op-ed column for the July 11 edition of the Greensboro News & Record. The piece, headlined "Three Examples of the Art of Avoiding Responsibility," focuses on public statements made by Enron executive Ken Lay, former President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"In our society," Guiniven writes, "it seems one way to avoid responsibility is to accept responsibility. Illogical, yes, but in an era where the words of public officials are often intended to obfuscate rather than inform, it is becoming a commonplace manuever for the rich and powerful who find themselves embroiled in imbroglios."

Guiniven worked in journalism as a reporter and bureau chief with UPI, in government as press secretary to Sen. Robert C. Byrd and in business as director of communications for International Paper Co. and director of corporate public relations for Chrysler. He brings his political and public relations experience to this article, stating that there are many strategies for image restoration, including the explanation of provocation, putting the problem into a beneficial context, attacking the accuser and accepting responsibility. "The preferred strategy is denial," he writes. "But unless the denial is legitimate, unless you really are innocent, it is just a lie that is quickly found out. Just ask Bill Clinton, who used and reused all the image-restoration strategies throughout his presidency (and runs the gamut again in his just-out autobiography)."

Guiniven points out that American leaders are expected to accept responsibility, but this "works long-term only if the contrition is sincere and is accompanied by atonement ... Lay and Rumsfeld, like Reno before them, missed that part of the equation."




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Last Modified:  7/11/04
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