Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Museum in Washington Celebrates Craft of Journalism

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Museum in Washington Celebrates Craft of Journalism

Article excerpt

JUST AS POLLS report that the public's opinion of the news media is turning ever more sour, a new museum has come along with the stated purpose of celebrating journalists and the work they do.

The Newseum, which opens next Friday in this suburb just over the Potomac River from Washington, bills itself as the first museum devoted to news in all its forms, chronicling the history of journalism from the earliest communications through the banner days of newspapers to the instantaneous, television-driven avalanche of today.

With a working television studio, an enormous video screen showing footage of the day's news and computer terminals allowing visitors to try their hand at reporting a story or making up a front page, the museum also attempts to simulate the occasionally remarkable craft of gathering and presenting the news. The museum was developed and financed by the Freedom Forum, the nonprofit organization devoted to a free press and endowed by the Gannett Company, the publisher of USA Today. It began with a modest idea of showcasing some of the artifacts at the Forum's headquarters in Arlington, but quickly evolved into a $50 million, 72,000-square-foot project designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates of New York City, the firm that designed the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. "It's an attempt to show the public the depth of journalism there is out there," said the museum's executive director, Peter S. Prichard, who worked from 1988 to 1994 as editor in chief of USA Today. "When I was at U SA Today, people were always interested in the inside story. We give them a lot of that here." It remains to be seen whether a museum will change the minds of anyone who views the media as part of the problem in America today, but the Newseum does not shy away from the debate. For example, it has an exhibit that asks, "Do Tabloids Go Too Far?" There is also a computer room where visitors can make the sort of ethical choices journalists have faced: Should a reporter use anonymous sources to report on wrongdoing by the White House? With galleries on three levels, the museum takes the visitor through the history of news gathering, beginning with a small gallery containing artifacts related to the art of communications, like Sumerian tablets and medieval "newsletters" from Europe. …

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