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Correction Please: NY Times’ National Academy Story Riddled with Errors UPDATED

Robin Pogrebin

In her National Academy update in Saturday’s NY Times, Robin Pogrebin lost me at the first sentence:

In December the National Academy unleashed a firestorm of controversy
when it announced that it was selling two important Hudson River School
paintings to pay its bills.

Announced??? As anyone who has followed this controversy surely knows, the Academy never “announced that it was selling” anything. Thanks to my tipsters, I discovered, after the fact, that it had secretly sold its important Church and Gifford. I disclosed this in the first post of what turned into an extensive investigative series for CultureGrrl. My initial report is what “unleashed” the “firestorm.” The Times itself, in its first catch-up story, directly credited me with the scoop. It then promptly decided to fuhgeddaboudit.

Once I finish composing this post, I’ll draft a proposed NY Times correction and send it here. (“Good luck with that,” says my inner skeptic.)

There are so many misstatements in Pogrebin’s Saturday piece that it could use not just a correction but a do-over.

Let’s start with her mini-scoop:

New York Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky,
a Westchester County Democrat and Brandeis alumnus, has introduced
legislation with the State Board of Regents to set deaccessioning
guidelines for New York museums.

As of this morning, that legislation had NOT yet been introduced, I was informed by Clifford Siegfried, the New York State Education Department’s assistant commissioner for museums, who has been working hand-in-glove with Brodsky on this project. Siegfried and I had an in-depth talk two weeks ago about the bill and the NY State Board of Regents’ position on deaccessions and use of proceeds. He told me he would send me Brodsky’s final text “as soon as everyone signs off.” When I know, you’ll know.

Siegfried also told me he hopes to attend my Mar. 30 session on “Desperation Deaccessions: The Temptation to Monetize Collections in Times of Financial Crisis,” which will be part of this month’s annual conference (scroll down) of the Museum Association of New York and the Upstate History Alliance, Mar. 29-31 in Tarrytown. Brodsky also indicated he hopes to participate in that discussion.

But back to Pogrebin: She also asserts that Brandeis University “reneged on its plans” to close the Rose and sell the art, whereas it merely revised its plans—substantially repurposing the Rose as an “art center,” not a museum; possibly selling some, but not all, of the art.

She also reports that “Lawrence A. Larose…last June resigned as chairman of the [National] Academy’s advisory board to protest the art sale.” If so, that resignation was premature, since the Academy’s members first voted to sell the art on Nov. 19, 2008. Carmine Branagan, the institution’s director who oversaw the deaccession process, arrived at the Academy in July.

Speaking of my tipsters, I’ve long been meaning to publicly thank Linda Norris, a blogger and managing partner of Riverhill, a Treadwell, NY-based consulting firm for museums, historical agencies and community organizations. It was she who alerted me to the NY State Regents’ emergency amendment, put aside for now, that would have permitted deaccessions to stave off bankruptcy.

And speaking of “unleashing firestorms,” I was informed that my Norris-sparked post on that amendment touched off a blaze of incendiary letters to the Regents, who prudently reversed course.

: If you click the first link in this story, you will see that the NY Times has appended to the end of Robin’s story a correction of the Brandeis “reneged on its plans” misstatement. One down, three to go. Robin did tacitly acknowledge her mistake regarding the Brodsky bill’s date of introduction in her follow-up piece on Tuesday that reported when it was actually introduced.

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