First Person: Why so royally hacked off at our discovery?
Advice from a wise editor when I was still a cub reporter at the Mercury held me in good stead when I came to plan the communications strategy around what has been described as one of the biggest archaeological stories of the century: The Discovery of King Richard III.
His words were, simply: "Tell it like it is." When a story is powerful, it needs no embellishments. The facts will speak for themselves. The presentations from my academic colleagues created a narrative that was so compelling it would resonate with people across the world.
The gasps from hardened journalists as we presented our evidence and showed the images that flashed around the world were audible.
Their cheers at the end of our presentations were spontaneous. The celebratory hugs from the academic panel were genuine, not choreographed. Telling it like it is sent shockwaves round the world.
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I have been a journalist and communications professional for more than 30 years. I am committed to the public dissemination of research and last year the university won the Heist Gold Award for our strategy around communicating animal research.
While lauded for strides the university has made towards greater openness, it is ironic that we have been lambasted from some quarters for being too open in this instance, and not waiting for Peer review.
I have often reported on science discoveries – particularly in astronomy – before they have been Peer reviewed and no-one has batted an eyelid. The discovery of a gamma ray burst can become instant news – but not it seems that of a king.
Perhaps there are different sets of rules for scientific findings compared with the humanities – though I doubt the discovery of archaeological remains of national or international importance anywhere in the world would need to be kept quiet until Peer review.
So perhaps it is the unprecedented scale of the media coverage that is the cause for disquiet. Leicester has been accused of "milking it" in the very paper that wrote to us congratulating us on the "acres of media coverage".
For press offices languishing north of Watford, getting any journalist out of London is an achievement – let alone 150 from around the world. No press office would let this opportunity go – we are mandated to use media opportunities not simply to communicate our research but to project the institution. Perhaps we did this too well for some people's liking.
The media hype will subside, the Peer review papers will come and go. But Leicester, the university where DNA fingerprinting was invented 30 years ago, will now be known as the university that discovered a king.
Ather Mirza is a former award-winning journalist on the Leicester Mercury and is director of the University of Leicester News Centre.