History makes news in the Newseum
WASHINGTON, D.C. ---- You’re a photographer for a big-city newspaper, with the chance of a front page photo. Would you change the image to make it more dramatic? Intervene in setting up the photo? Alter the truth?
Are you bothered by ethics as handled by the news media? You can explore a series of these issues at the interactive exhibits in the seven-story Newseum in Washington, D. C.
Should the Unabomber Manifesto have been published? Was it more important to protect tennis star Arthur Ashe’s privacy or to disclose he had AIDS? Is it okay to sneak prohibited items through airport security for a story? There’s usually no right or wrong, just the moral dilemmas journalists face every day.
Cited as a technological marvel, the Newseum covers five centuries of news history in 15 galleries, 15 theatres and 130 hands-on exhibits with the focus always on the story behind the stories. Where and how news is made and how it is reported is itself the news.
You can try your hand at being a reporter. There’s a big story breaking at the circus. During an animal-rights protest, someone let all the animals out of their cages. A protest leader is being held for questioning. You know what happened, when and where. Your assignment is to find out who did it, how and why. And you need to file the story before the competition.
You get to decide who to question and what questions to ask. You negotiate between opinion, fact and spin.
Those who dream of working in front of the camera may be videotaped reporting a late-breaking story from the White House, Supreme Court or Newseum. You get to read from a teleprompter or speak extemporaneously, just like the pros. You even get to practice a bit before reporting live.
Once home, you can download a video of your television debut from the Newseum website.
The Newseum is not just about news. For the younger generation, it’s about their future. For the older generation, it’s their history.
Where were you when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon? When Kennedy was shot? When you heard about the Oklahoma bombing?
You can re-live history. Seeing the actual Berlin Wall brings that era alive in a palpable way no news story can. Viewing part of the severely melted and mangled antenna from one of the towers demolished on 9/11 can cause a visceral reaction.
The display of every Pulitzer Prize-winning photo since the award was first presented in 1942 is reason enough to visit the Newseum. Some are images you’ve seen over time. Others you’ve never seen before but may now take up permanent residence in your mind’s eye.
For comic relief, check out the bathrooms, where amusing headlines are the graffiti: “He Found God at End of His Rope,” “Never Withhold Herpes Infection From Loved One” and “Dishonesty Policy Voted in By Senate.”
The history of news-dissemination is traced from smoke signals and drumbeats to the high-tech promises of the next millennium.
In the News History Gallery are a printed version of Columbus’ letter to Queen Isabella discussing the New World he’d just discovered, Thomas Paine’s writing kit and a 1792 edition of his Common Sense pamphlet, a page from the original Gutenberg Bible, Mark Twain’s pipe, and Ernie Pyle’s typewriter.
At the 4-D movie, which is much more intense than your usual IMAX, you whip through a printing press like a sheet of newsprint.
Real-time happenings from around the world are displayed on a 40-foot-by-22-foot hi-definition screen while the printed version is recorded on the front pages of more than 80 newspapers. You can check out how the same events are depicted differently, depending upon the editorial emphasis of each newspaper. Exhibits and videos tucked throughout the building hold the media accountable for stories written in error, whether intentionally or inadvertently.
The good news is there’s so much to see. The bad news is there’s so much to see. Like a big-city Sunday newspaper, it takes a lot of time to get through it all. After checking out the orientation film, start at the top and spiral your way down.
For more information, visit newseum.org or call (888) NEWSEUM.
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