Three Laws of Journalism About Antiques

The three laws of real estate: location, location, location.

The three laws of journalism: accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.

And the three laws of reporting about antiques: local, local, local.

For those seeking information about antiques and the collectibles industry, there are numerous media outlets from which to select.

Of late, there’s no shortage of so-called “reality” TV shows that, in some fashion, touch on the subject of antiques.

Pawning. Picking. Hunting. Storage locker-ing. Market warrior-ing.

Most often, though, such programming is much more about either the bizarre behavior or the incredible self-involvement of the show’s “personalities.”

With more “instant replays” than are countable. As if what was shown was so subtle and nuanced as to go unnoticed without the multiple replays. Not.

Journalism and reporting about antiques and collectibles is presented on paper by many publications that, to varying degree and with varying enthusiasm and completeness, also find their way into digital media.

Most antiques publications, if we’re honest, are little more than a venue for press releases (including my own) coupled with abundant advertising. Indeed, the traditional 60-40 ad-editorial split experienced by the broader daily news press seems to slight the advertising figure among antiques periodicals.

Both press releases and ads, of course, are informative. Though neither qualifies as journalism.

PR and advertising both seek to benefit the creator first and only then the recipient. That’s not to say the reader doesn’t or won’t benefit.

We can all think of examples where the press release directed our attention to the exhibit we otherwise would not have known about. Or the advertisement that alerts us to the “got-to-have” item available at an auction or an estate sale.

But journalism seeks first to inform and benefit its recipient, the media audience.

And, if information is a measure of what one does NOT know, then what comprises journalistic information is usually the local angle that is the most significant. Like politics, information about antiques is invariably local.

Objects, including art, are made. Who made it? When was it made? Where was it made? What circumstances seemed to prompt the invention? How was it distributed and who were its original buyers?

What did the buyers do with the object once they owned it? To what extent was the object re-purposed by its purchaser? How did the object find its way into the hands of the present owner?

How does the wisdom – the received history – of context help us to better understand the object, its maker, and some broader “lesson”?

Reporting about antiques helps answer such questions.

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