The glamour, the grit, and the glory of the newspaper business is housed in the magnificent Newseum, illustrated in all sorts of ways.
Read the day’s front pages of every state and many other nations — it’s a study in what’s important in various places. Take a look at old front pages in the News Corp. New History Gallery with 300 pages from five centuries. A short film (there are all kinds of films here) offers a bit of Hollywood’s take on the news biz. Peek into a real TV studio or try your hand at reporting the news yourself.
Special exhibits look at the great events of history from the news gatherer’s perspective. During our visit, we saw displays on JFK: A Thousand Days, Anchorman: the Exhibit (OK, not everything is real news), and 1963: Civil Rights at 50.
There are electronic newspapers and games to play with, old TV and radio broadcasts to listen to, memorabilia from some pretty big stories — even the Watergate door that got led to the downfall of a president.
But it’s not all fun and games. A retrospective on Pulitzer Prize photography reminds visitors of how horrible things can be. A gallery devoted to 9/11 includes the broadcast tower from the top of the World Trade Center and front pages from near and far of that terrible day, and also a box of tissues set on a ledge. The Berlin Wall fragment is stark and chilling. Hard to imagine that was a part of everyday life in Berlin just a few years ago.
Do you know the Five Freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment? Turns out most people are more likely to know all five Simpsons’ names than the freedoms. (They are Assembly, Religion, Petition, Speech and …. um…. Press.)
There have always been characters in the world of journalism and they are remembered here: Nellie Bly, Benjamin Franklin, Edward R. Murrow and Tim Russert, among them. Journalists whose bylines are long forgotten are still remembered here, too — those who reported on events throughout history from war to riot to famine to simple community gatherings.
And those who gave their lives so a story could be told are remembered in a soaring memorial filled with too many names and photographs. It’s shocking to think that telling a story could cause a reporter’s death. But these photos remind us that being a reporter sometimes means facing danger, injury, torture or even death — and so does the Time photographer’s bullet-riddled truck, Bob Woodruff’s flak jacket and Daniel Pearl’s briefcase.
The Newseum’s admission is good for two days — and if you’ve got more than one day, go ahead and plan to spend at least two days here.
I had only one day — five hours really — and I missed many of the films and raced through exhibits where I could have lingered for much longer. Next time, and there will be a next time, I plan to devote a much longer stretch of time. It’s an overwhelming experience. Much to see, much to interact with, much to think about.
I’ve loved newspapers for a very long time — and worked on them for almost as long. I do love the smell of newsprint in the morning and have high hopes for the future of journalism (and democracy).
The Newseum pays tribute to the work of so many writers, editors, photographers, broadcasters‚ and now citizen journalists too (Hi Twitter!). It’s fitting. It’s important. And it’s a wonderful way to spend a day away.
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman