Friday, October 2, 2009

News About The News

Just two years old, the Newseum stands at Pennsylvania and 6th as a tribute to journalists - and to history.

The building itself is visually impressive. I'm no architect, but it's clear the building was designed to last just as long as the

I spent four hours perusing the Newseum. Just enough time to see the exhibits at a casual pace and make a stop at the gift shop for a cheesy shirt labelled "News Junkie."

The museum is strong on audio-visuals (it better be). Each floor has interactive video booths or touch screens to learn about journalistic "firsts."

The Berlin Wall exhibit displays the largest piece of the Berlin Wall (out of Berlin, that is).

The September 11 was perhaps most haunting. The display included a
crumpled radio antenna that stood atop the one of the towers. One wall displays over 100 front page covers from that fateful day. And the video that showed the events of 9/11 from the reporters' perspective.

One photographer - Bill Biggart - died during the Twin Tower attacks. His last photo was timestamped at 9:00 - the exact time the second plane hit. There's a tribute video to him. His remaining camera equipment was on display.

Most viewers left the video gallery close to tears, myself included.

Almost as if to apologize for the churning memories from the 9/11 exhibit, the museum route guides patrons to a hall hailing the music journalism that developed from Woodstock.

Anchor-wannabes can report the news from a teleprompter on a mini news set, complete with green screen and mike (Just like I did).

And, as I'd hoped, there was a brief tribute to the journalism's future: the Internet, and yes, even a brief mention of Rick Sanchez on Twitter.

There's even a great balcony view of the Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue. The Newseum staffer graciously offered to take my picture, adding that she got her picture with Conan O'Brien when he visited, too. She listed all sort of celebrities who have visited. The Newseum rakes in thousands when groups organize a private event. "You'd never recognize this place," she said. "It turns into a nightclub at night!"

The building is impressive inside and out. Just step up to the front door and read the front page of a newspaper from every state. And they're updated every day.

Of course, there exists plenty of skepticism and criticism - by journalists, no less - about this building that commemorates the work of journalists throughout history.

Newsbusters called it a "Shrine to media self-obsession."

A humorous look at the gift shop, from Fishbowl DC.

And the Huffington Post says the Newseum gives itself a "big, wet sloppy kiss" with the monument to itself. Nathan Robinson writes:

The Newseum constantly feels as if The New York Times is desperately trying to preserve its reputation in the face of competition, and rekindle the flame of a dead era. Blindsided by the Internet Age, and finally coming closer to realizing that Blogs Can Do It Better, the Times has reacted in the only way it knows how: building a gigantic monument to itself.

Love it or hate it, that's the news for ya.


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