Monday, May 1, 2017

The Newseum: Washington's Novel New Museum Aims To Revive Confidence In Media Integrity

When I was in D.C. a couple weeks ago I decided to check out the new museum that was inaugurated since my last trip to the Capitol, the Newseum, a catchy hybrid name featuring the history of journalism. It's interesting that the launch of this recently added feature on Pennsylvania Avenue coincides with what is probably the low point of public confidence in media.

According to this Pew Research study not very many people have "a lot" of trust in news media, and fewer really trust social media.* Despite the media's protests to the contrary, Americans overwhelmingly see the media as biased.

Inasmuch as the Newseum's funding came from many of our leading news organizations, it's no surprise that the experience gives off the aura of an organization giving itself a pat on the back, as this Huffington Post story points out. I found the Newseum an entertaining and informative Washington diversion nevertheless.

The Comics have also served a journalistic function. Was this directed at
the Trump campaign theme, "Won't Get Fooled Again"?
The six-story building, sitting within eyeshot of the Capitol, is located across the street from the National Museum, one of my personal favorite places to visit with near. Once inside you're invited to screen some films that most people by-passed in order to get into the "things to see" including large panels from the fallen Berlin Wall, the first reminder that one of the Newseum's themes is Freedom. From here you take an elevator to the top and work your way down.

The building's structure is such that the center is a massive open space so you can see down and across to all other floors, interior balcony rails all around. This design probably makes it easy to find lost children, especially if they have brightly-colored hair.

On the north side of this open space is a five story screen with on-going news programming. A typical big city news helicopter hangs suspended in the space as well, adding a dramatic accent to the room.

The Newseum appears to be a collection of permanent and temporary exhibits, much like many museums. The rotating temporary exhibits serve as lures to draw locals back so they have something new to experience. The current exhibit is titled Louder Than Words, featuring the relationships of rock music and politics. One section shows how music has been part of nearly all the presidential campaigns of this past century. Large backlit panels would show campaigning presidents, identify their campaign trail theme songs and include photos of the performers as well.

There's plenty of Bono and fifty other rock 'n roll stars. There's footage of Jimi Hendrix and the actual “Star Spangled Banner” Fender Stratocaster that he played at Woodstock. For what it's worth, if I read this link correctly, Louder Than Words will be moving to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month.

One of the primary aims of the Newseum appears to be making Americans aware of five key freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights: freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly and the right to petition. In addition to the history of journalism, the history of the Pulitzer Prize and other highlights, the Newseum claims to be "the only institution in the world dedicated to championing the five freedoms of the First Amendment."

Next time you're in Washington, check it out.

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