Why Museums Should Be Media

A lot of journalism is bad.

I’m not even just talking about the spin-direct-from-political-parties that passes for coverage of public affairs, although yes, that’s terrible. Or the features that are completely independent, except for the minor fact that an advertiser’s schedule is dependent on how favorably it mentions them.

But even less-controversial matters are frequently covered weakly. It’s understandable, and not even necessarily malicious. The mass media is, by necessity, generalist. You can learn a lot by interviewing someone about what they’re working on–but not nearly as much as they learn by working on it. Even diligent journalists can and do make mistakes, or misinterpretations, or miss the real story.

So what about letting the experts write about their work directly? Sometimes that works. But a lot of times it doesn’t. Writing is a skill, and not everyone has developed it. Any editor can talk about traumatizing experiences that they’ve had, whipping articles by intelligent, respected people who couldn’t write into shape.

A museum’s communication staff is in a good position to solve both of these problems. They should be able to develop the narrow focus on the museum’s activities to report those stories accurately, and obviously they should have the communication skills to report them effectively.

Ultimately, I think the museum benefits from this as well, even though the stories may not be directly selling museum attendance or donation or whatever. Giving people more information about a topic they find interesting increases, not decreases, their passion for it. A museum should be able to tap this passion and turn it into tangible support.

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One Response to Why Museums Should Be Media

  1. Pingback: Museum as Media: The Walker Art Center’s New Web Site | Museum Beyond

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