Missing facts in Post stories

Do you ever read a story in The Post, even a very good one, and at the end find yourself scratching your head because the story is missing some essential fact that would really help your overall comprehension?

I get a fair amount of letters about this. Most are about Post stories that preview, for example, a major presidential speech. They’ll say what the president hopes to do, must do, which constituency he is aiming for, what impact he hopes to have etc. But then it doesn’t tell you what time that night the blasted president is speaking. Is it 7 p.m., 8 p.m.? Is it on all the TV networks, NPR, PBS or what? It drives people crazy, and me nuts. I want to watch this, but when is it on? The story doesn’t say.

Along these lines, I got a letter from a reader this week, Brian Noyes of Arlington, who appreciated stories in the Oct. 2 Post about museums, particularly the front-page story about the new museum in Bentonville, Ark., being built by Wal-Mart heiress Alice L. Walton, and a second story in the Sunday Arts section about a new museum being formed in Southwest Washington by the noted modern art collectors Donald and Mera Rubell.

But as the reader notes in his letter below, he couldn’t find out after reading dozens of column inches and hundreds and hundreds of words: 1) why the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, in Arkansas, was given that particular name; and 2) what is the name of the Rubell’s art collection in Miami, which is the model for their new museum in D.C.?

Here’s the letter:

“On A1, Philip Kennicott, the Post’s art and culture critic, wrote about Bentonville, Ark.’s new world-class art museum named the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Wacky name, I thought after reading the third sentence: Is it named after a person? If so, who is Crystal Bridges? Or maybe it’s a Bentonville landmark? Or, perhaps, the modern architecture of the museum itself? A reader won’t find the answer in that front-page story or even in the jump, although a separate review of the museum’s collection in another story in section Q (!) revealed the answer.”

As it turns out, the name derives from the Crystal Springs in Bentonville, whose waters have been diverted into ponds at the museum, over which the museum’s “bridges” or exhibit halls, traverse. But you don’t get that until you find the special section Q, on museums, way deep in the pile of Sunday supplements. Once you find that, Kennicott spends a lot of space on the name, as a matter of fact.

Now for the Rubell’s Miami museum. Here’s what Noyes said about that.

“In the Arts section, Marc Fisher’s excellent piece on Mera and Donald Rubell and their attempt to launch an art museum and hotel complex in Southwest D.C. after starting a successful museum in a seedy Miami neighborhood was a captivating story, but left out an important item: What was the name of their Florida museum that launched this effort? It’s an important and recurring part of the story and I still don’t know after reading the piece; it was referred to repeatedly as ‘the Rubells’ family museum,’ ‘the Rubells’ Miami museum,’ and ‘their museum.’

“Let’s make a deal,” Noyes continued, “If you get the Post editors to fill in the blanks of basic missing facts, I’ll stop using Google to get the rest of the story.”

The Miami museum is called, simply, the Rubell Family Collection, or RFC for short. Fisher’s story did have the name in there, in the sixth paragraph, but it looks as though a copy editor decided to lower case the Family Collection into family collection so it doesn’t look like a proper name.

I’m an art freak, so I liked The Post’s special museum section and in particular the stories by Kennicott and Fisher. But the moral of this story, as The Post normally does with reviews and travel stories, is to put in a small, easy-to-find plugger box with some essential information on the institutions or events in question.

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