Kathy Brewis: dumbing-down journalism

by Stephen Tall on October 27, 2009

Kathy Brewis asks in The Times, Who are the curators kidding?, attacking the soon-to-be-reopened Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for (that tired old hack’s cliche) “dumbing-down”.

The irony, which doubtless will escape Ms Brewis is this: she hasn’t stepped foot in the revamped museum.

Yes, that’s right a journalist who complains of dumbing-down has done so by spewing out 900 words without undertaking any primary research beyond a bit of Googling, and parsing a press release. I didn’t actually trouble to read Ms Brewis’s article in full – I really didn’t see the need to do so before deciding to attack her: I mean, why bother? [/irony] – but this sentence did catch my eye:

I loved the old Ashmolean. I don’t want to “discover how civilisations developed as part of an interrelated world culture”. I want to look at something really peculiar with a sense of awe and wonder at its otherness.

I have no problem with Ms Brewis taking pleasure in gaping slack-jawed at peculiar things without bothering to place them in any kind of international, historical, social or cultural context. But I don’t think it’s the Ashmolean which is guilty here of dumbing-down.

If you want an informed journalistic take on the new Ashmolean, try this article by Jonathan Glancey instead.