Playing the long game with reporters

The trials and tribulations in receiving credit where it's due

Perhaps one of the biggest issues regarding architects in the media is the lack of acknowledgement or credit to the architect. For one of the most respected professions in the world, architects are too often left out of media coverage about the buildings they’ve designed.

Here’s how the situation typically plays out: A member or component executive shares with me an article in a publication about a building or buildings in which the central focus of the piece is the design of the building but fails to mention the architects that created these structures. What may seem like a glaring omission and reporting failure to some is not always obvious to others. Readers with no background in architecture or journalism may not recognize that the article left out a key part of the story.

Arguing for the 'Who'

The advent of online news created the 24-hour news cycle, which arguably led to a decline in standards and quality. Over the last 10 years, news outlets have looked to cut costs everywhere: reducing the size of editorial staff, reducing the salaries of many reporters, and employing less-experienced writers. In short, writers are tasked with producing several stories a day and may omit the name of the building’s architect because they ran out of time. And in many cases, a short note to the writer informing them of the architect’s name will suffice.

To understand why the "who" is so often omitted, we need to look at the situations and types of publications most guilty of this offense. Daily newspapers are often the biggest offenders. With short, strict deadlines, multiple competing sources, and tight word limits, including an architect’s name takes low priority on a journalist’s checklist. Real estate reporters, in particular, are guilty of leaving out the architect in their pieces.

Architects are too often left out of media coverage about the buildings they’ve designed.

When covering the opening of a new building, real estate reporters always interview the developer or owner as well as community leaders and residents. They do this because their articles need to hook readers with relevant sources who provide the "what’s next" piece of the story. These sources talk about how the building will impact the community and are aware of the architects of the building; but they have no incentive, and are not prompted, to mention the architects while speaking to the reporter.

In the case of this Arizona Republic story on local elementary school buildings which fails to acknowledge the architects, the writer informed me that the intended audience was parents. After I explained that her omission of architects’ names was equal to a writer covering the top five Arizona Star articles omitting the names of the authors, she agreed that listing the names of the architects was a relevant part of the story and would consider updating her piece with that information. After a day of no  action, we provided the names of the architects directly to her but, unfortunately, she stopped responding to our requests to update the piece.  

As frustrating as that situation seems, taking further action would only serve to discourage the writer from covering the profession. However, the next time she produces a similar piece, listing the names of the architects who designed the buildings might just be top of mind.

When to take action  

Not every omission warrants a response. Although coverage of the opening of a new apartment complex or business center should mention the architect, articles about neighborhoods in general or ones that focus on specific stores and restaurants located within a building may not need to list the architect to maintain journalistic integrity.

With the rise of online journalism, the comments section below articles can be a useful space for public feedback. They may not admit it, but most journalists read the comments in these spaces to get an idea of who is reading their content. If they see more than several requests for the author to provide the names of the architects left out of their story, they may take the time to update their pieces to include that information.

If you come across an article that wrongfully excludes the name of an architect, send a link to props@aia.org.

Matt Tinder is senior manager of media relations at the AIA.

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