Dear Matt Pitzarella,
I read with interest the statement you made to the Beaver County Times regarding my investigative report into your educational credentials (or lack thereof).
As you know, I published a story on Monday indicating that you have misrepresented your educational accomplishments. Your online professional profile and numerous stories indicate that you have an “M.S.” – or master of science degree – in business ethics from Duquesne University.
On your Linkedin profile, you list the years of attendance as 2003-2005, conveniently the length of time it would take to earn such a master’s degree (had you, of course, actually attended those courses to completion). But when I called Duquesne to check it out, they informed me that you did not earn a degree at the Pittsburgh educational institution.
In fact, they told me you were only enrolled in the program from the spring of 2004 through the fall of 2004.
As you may recall, I called and left you a message before I published the report. It wasn’t returned. I emailed each of Range Resources’ board of directors. Those weren’t returned. I emailed myriad members of senior management. Hate to repeat myself, but: None of that was returned, either.
Seeing that you are a fervent tweeter, I tried reaching you via that social network, as well.
Then, Thursday morning, I noted the statement you gave to the Beaver County Times’ energy reporter, Rachel Morgan.
Just so there is no ambiguity about what I am referring to, here was your statement:
I’ve never stated that I completed the program.
You then went on to say this:
LinkedIn is a resource to connect with people, and I list the program of study to connect with those individuals. My corporate bio and all references to my background make it clear that I attended Duquesne and have never stated that I completed the program.
And then there was this:
Anywhere else that I’ve ever referenced that have always included that I attended the program but never stated that I completed it. My corporate bios always make that very, very clear. There’s no point in having ambiguity on that subject.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of Range’s top attorneys also made a statement:
“I was aware of the accusation that was made on a blog site to that effect. And once it was brought to my attention, I did what I would have done in any situation where we have an employee accused of doing something like that,” said Range general counsel David Poole. “What I determined is that Matt has not made that statement. What has happened here are a couple of published third-party references to (Pitzarella) that says he has earned a master’s degree.”
This, of course, brings us to this open letter.
Because you are absolutely right, Matt: There’s no point in having ambiguity on that subject.
So if you will kindly indulge me, I have some things I’d like to talk through with you (which I would have mentioned, of course, had you called me back. Or tweeted me back. I’m not picky).
First: When you say you never said you completed the program do you really mean, “I was never directly quoted by a news organization saying, ‘Hello, my name is Matt Pitzarella – you may remember me from such places as Range Resources and Columbia Gas. And yes, I have a master’s of science in executive leadership and business ethics from Duquesne University, a prestigious Catholic school in Pittsburgh.”
Here’s why I ask: Because I’m not buying your explanation. Not even part of it.
For one thing, you say you simply stated the dates of attendance on Linkedin. Maybe that could have worked as a reasonable answer, had you simply indicated “2004” there.
But you didn’t.
Then there is the idea of listing, not just on the Linkedin profile but in other media sources, “M.S.” or even the more specific “MSLBE” (which stands for Master of Science in Leadership and Business Ethics).
I’m going to level with you, Matt: No rational, college-educated person would consider using the acronyms for specific degrees or certifications after they had attended just a couple classes.
That would be like an attorney taking the first semester of law school and thinking it was totally legit to put a “JD” (as in juris doctor)after his name for the rest of his life. It would be like me taking a copy reading and editing course at Point Park University and forever referring to myself as Amanda Gillooly, B.A.J&MC.
That’s just not the way the world works.
I also wonder how you can say you never indicated you completed the program when you have been included in question-and-answer pieces that are written in the first person. I have written those pieces.
The subject of those types of interviews provides the answers, sometimes verbatim.
And just so there is absolutely no ambiguity here, I am referring to this story in Pop City Media http://www.popcitymedia.com/features/rangeresources120909.aspx
And this one, too: http://www.freenewspos.com/news/article/b/477250/politics/to-the-pointe
I gotta say, I also take issue with your attorney’s logic – that it’s no biggie because of the frequency with which this bad information was shared, and where.
He said, and I am quoting directly, that the mention of your nonexistent master’s in business ethics consisted of “a couple of published third-party references.”
Respectfully, I think he is paying attention to the wrong part of the story. The point is, you knew you didn’t have the degree. And since you are a smart dude, I believe you knew exactly what people would assume when you listed those acronyms.
The irony is that for a man who has called me and likely other reporters to take issue with even the smallest nuance in wording, there inexplicably is not one clarification or correction regarding the inaccurate info published about your nonexistent degree that I could find in a Google search.
Those who have been watching from home can appreciate another piece of irony: They know you and your employer are no strangers to accusing others, very publicly, of being disingenuous. Of lying. Or misrepresenting the facts.
You guys have basically gone after anyone who opposes Range Resources’ business practices, or who has questioned any part of them.
In January 2012, you claimed a Texas man who sued Range for alleged water contamination lied about problems he was having at his home. One website reports you said the man, Steven Lipsky,“deliberately falsified an internet video of his garden hose flaming.”
Then there was the time Range sent a cease and desist letter to Texas blogger Sharon Wilson.
Bloomberg reports: Wilson’s blog “continued misrepresentations about Range, Range’s actions in the past and its intentions with regard to this lawsuit” according to company legal counsel quoted.
Did you catch the part about “continued misrepresentations?” Do you find it in any way hypocritical?
That all said, Matt, this whole thing speaks to an issue other than just “business ethics.” It speaks to your ethics as a public relations specialist.
In a feature story about your receipt of the Young PR Professional of the Year 2005 award, you said you were a “student of communication.” The story references your devotion to the Public Relations Student Society of America.
I mention the professional organization because you seemingly forgot some of the values that the parent society holds dear – and for which it holds PR professionals accountable.
“The practice of public relations can present unique and challenging ethical issues,” the Public Relations Society of America website indicates. “At the same time, protecting integrity and the public trust are fundamental to the profession’s role and reputation. Bottom line, successful public relations hinges on the ethics of its practitioners.”
While PRSA lists six core values, the one I think you might want to take a gander at this one:
Protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information.
I assume that includes information about one’s self.
This guideline was also listed as a priority for PR folks like you:
Be honest and accurate in all communications.
Again: I assume that also includes communications about one’s self.
But what did you do? You didn’t take responsibility for any ambiguity. You didn’t clarify the information that was yours to edit (such as your Linkedin profile). I assume you didn’t ask for clarification for the stories for which you submitted copy or to an interview (but please correct me if I am wrong).
So, in actuality? You are fine with the ambiguity.
That’s all for now. As always, if you have any comment, youcan reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amanda Gillooly, B.A. J&MC