A Day at the Newseum

The Newseum (think “news” + “museum”) occupies a place of prominence in Washington, DC: Pennsylvania Avenue between the United States Capitol and the White House. That’s appropriate given the importance of the news gathering industry to American society.

More than anything, the Newseum is a six-story, 250,000 square foot, block-long shrine to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which includes “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” The 45 words of the entire amendment fill a 74-foot-high plaque on the building’s facade.

Exhibits inside interpret the First Amendment from different perspectives from the historic…

Digital image of the Magna Carta, 1215

to the lofty…

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1969

to pop culture.

Bart Simpson, fourth grade, Springfield Elementary School

The Newseum’s admission price is steep ($19.95 if purchased on the spot), but tickets are good for two days. You may need all that time to view the exhibits in cases, video presenations and interactive exhibits.

Atrium lobby of the Newseum

I visited with a friend, and our time was limited, so after enjoying the dead-on views of the United States Capitol from the fifth floor terrace, we attempted to bypass an exhibit about coverage of Hurricane Katrina. It didn’t happen – the exhibit was so engaging that we got sucked right in to questions like whether reporters’ first obligation was to report the story or to potentially be rescuers when witnessing impending disaster.

We did bypass the exhibit about September 11, 2001 – too close for comfort for both of us. Yet, it was encouraging to see so many junior high school students, who were not aware of those tragic events, lined up to learn about them.

World Trade Center radio tower

The Newseum’s News History exhibit. Inside are original clips and newspaper front pages of major events and key stories of American journalism, stories of war, economic collapse, political upheaval, sensational crimes…

New York Post, 1982

…and heartwarming headlines:

New York Sun, 1897

Throughout my journey at the Newseum, I couldn’t escape the question of the future of newspapers themselves. So it was encouraging to see that the Newseum, at least, doesn’t seem ready to give up the fight.

For more information, visit www.newseum.org.