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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


There’s no such thing as bad press?

By Jack Ashby, on 11 December 2012

This is a short post about the surprise appearance of the Grant Museum in a story that was completely unrelated.

Before I start, there are some things you should bear in mind:

  • We count the number of times the Grant Museum appears in the press as a measure of our performance.
  • Unless it’s a press story promoting the Museum, we charge for use of our images by publishers, but we have allowed a couple of stock photo libraries to photograph the Museum in the hope that it will spread the word of our existence.
  • For obvious reasons we try and keep track of journalists and photographers who come and visit.
  • We have no control over the internet.


Every month I go to a meeting with all the other people involved with communications at UCL to look over major events and stories involving the University over the past month, and to highlight what’s about to come up. At the last meeting a story in the press concerning the possibility of UCL changing a statute which at present effectively offers academic staff permanent tenure – something the Unions are concerned about, was brought up. This didn’t appear to have much to do with the Grant Museum, until they opened the link on the projector…

The Times Higher, who have recently shown some positive interest in the Museum – their editors are among the many who have fallen under the spell of our Jar of Moles – decided to illustrate the story with this picture, taken in the Grant Museum, with the tag line “Chorus of dismay: union says mooted reform to institution’s constitution would be fatal to academic freedom. Credit: Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL/Alamy”.

So a couple of thoughts spring to mind:
1) That tag line doesn’t really make much of a link between a story about the ability to include academic posts in redundancy consultations and an image of some apes. Is the word “fatal” enough to justify the use of a skeleton photo?
2) Should I be cross that an image of the Museum has been used in this way?
a) Is this a good thing because people might see it and think “that looks interesting – I’ll go and visit”?
b) Is this a bad thing because we’ve been associated with a negative story?
3) I’m struggling to follow the thought process of the picture editor. I imagine they started with the intention of either finding a picture of some disgruntled union-types outside a UCL building, a picture of the Provost looking cross, or some unhappy professors, but what search term did they use to come across this picture?
4) Should I count this in a tally of press coverage for the Museum?

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