First things first.
I need to warmly thank those of you who rose to the Send CultureGrrl to Orlando challenge, which, I’m delighted to report, exceeded my goal of paying for my two nights at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference hotel. (Let’s forget about the cost of airport taxis in Orlando or parking at Newark airport.) I surpassed my fundraising target (by $25) when CultureGrrl Donor 170 from New York cheerfully clicked my “Donate” button, less than two hours before I boarded my Newark flight.
I had another surge of gratitude for my devoted art-lings when the Washington Post‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter (and one of my co-panelists at the conference), James Grimaldi, wrote this to me after I had sent him a link to this pre-conference post:
Why didn’t I think of fundraising for my trip?! I’m paying my own way too.
Really? The WaPo made Grimaldi pay his own way to represent his paper admirably on two panels (one, with me, about culture; the other about guns)? He brought additional luster to the paper by being honored at the conference (along with three co-authors) with the Freedom of Information Medal for WaPo’s investigation into The Hidden Life of Guns.
It was meeting people like Grimaldi (and hearing them divulge trade secrets and strategies during the various panel discussions) that made the conference so valuable to me. Investigative reporters, who dig for the stories behind the public pronouncements, sometimes at great personal risk, are the elite of the journalistic profession. It was truly inspiring (and humbling) to inhale that atmosphere.
I didn’t meet the NY Times‘ executive editor, Bill Keller, although there was a moment when, both alone, we closely passed each other in the hall. I considered accosting him, but he adopted the celebrity stance—head down, no eye contact. I just gawked.
I did attend his panel, where I heard him defend the honor and value of the Times in the post-WikiLeaks era.
Part of the fun of my own session, “Digging Culture: The fine art of investigating the business of museums and collectors,” was getting ideas from my co-panelists, especially Jason Felch of the LA Times (co-author with our co-panelist Ralph Frammolino of the new Getty antiquities exposé, Chasing Aphrodite), who listed some specific American museums that he thinks are ripe for antiquities-related investigative reporting. (NOTE TO SELF: Contact Minneapolis again!)
In watching the video of my own presentation, below, I get a kick from observing Grimaldi’s smiles, laughter and notetaking, in reaction to my rundown of strategies for deaccession reporting. As competitive as we are, reporters still respond sympathetically to the trials and exploits of resourceful colleagues.
This 12-minute excerpt from my presentation (lacking my introductory comments on the various reasons why museums decide to sell art) may be a bit challenging to watch: I began by talking too fast, because the expansiveness of the others had left me with little remaining time as the final speaker. The acoustics in the room were somewhat muddy. My videographer, CultureSpouse, often forgot to turn the camera to the images on the screen (but I have included annotations that list the names and creators of the artworks, some of which are illustrated here—the first of the two mentioned Picassos, the Durand, the Church, the Gifford, the O’Keeffe).
Still, as you’ll hear at the end (and as I learned later by being appreciatively accosted by several who had heard me), my talk gained CultureGrrl some enthusiastic admirers, not the least of whom was our moderator, Grimaldi (sitting immediately to my right, next to Frammolino, with Felch briefly glimpsed at the end), who exclaimed, “Great! Fantastic!” at the end of this clip: