Sunday, April 13, 2008

Newseum Opening

It has been a while since I wrote anything substantial in this blog. I have been preoccupied with my personal life and to an extent with schoolwork leaving me with no inspiration to create any texts. Besides, I am taking a journalism class this semester, which somewhat quenches my thirst for expression.

Now, as I am entering yet another round of summer employment search and yet another attempt to keep at least a small part of my brain focused on long-term repetitive tasks, it makes sense to resume blogging for the initial purposes of self-expression and establishing "online presence".

In any case, the main point of this posting is the re-opening of Newseum, which took place on Friday. Apparently, it has relocated from Arlington, Va., where it had existed for about five years, to the prime location in the District. The new building stands on the corner of Pennsylvania Ave NW and 6th Street NW, which is just a couple of blocks away from the Capitol and next door to the embassy of Canada. The view of the surroundings from the top floor balcony is fascinating. Too bad the area is not open to photographers for free. Obviously, on the opening day, when the admission was free, the terrace was packed so I quickly snapped a few shots with my phone's camera just to give the feeling of the place. Though there was one other factor contributing to the density of people: a significant part of area was closed off due to some unfinished construction, which is visible in the second picture from the left.

Like any other museum, Newseum features a number of permanent exhibitions as well as some traveling ones. However, there is one project that cannot be described by any of these terms because it changes every single day. Every day editors from all over the world send their newspaper's front pages to Newseum where the staff picks the most interesting ones for the day and changes displays before first visitors come. I got lucky because the Friday's issue of Slovak Dennik SME featured one of the most amazing front pages I have seen in my life. I cannot give the verbatim translation since my Slovak skills are limited, but the here is the gist of the text:

The editorial board informs the readers about the parliament passing a press law, which they consider to be an attack on the freedom of the press and the editorial independence. The editors also call upon the president of Slovakia, the Constitutional Court, and international organizations for help so that news could be delivered to/serve readers. (I am not sure about the Slovak use of the verb that means "to serve" in the Eastern Slavic languages.)

The permanent exhibitions tell the world history of the press and American journalism. Though a little too much of it. The News History exhibit, which has numerous front pages describing historical events is at least 90% American. The only non-English newspapers there are a couple of Nazi-era German papers and at least one Russian newspaper. Unfortunately, many things are missing because of the target audience or misjudgment on behalf of the creators. I personally would love to see more artifacts about the first newspapers than the slippers of the first editor of Wonkette.

The digital media exhibition also tells an incomplete story. I liked the attention given to blogs and citizen journalism. The Rathergate has its own dedicated display showing how the "common folk" is able to scrutinize journalists. However, the whole point of the digital age section is to describe how journalists have to be quicker than ever to break the news before everyone else missing such important technological developments as RSS. This really simple protocol has given the readers, such as myself, the ability to consumer larger volumes of information in shorter time by eliminating distracting graphics and keeping advertisements in addition to instant delivery.

There are two memorial exhibitions: one for all journalists who "died reporting news" and another dedicated to 9/11. Having lived in New York at the time of the attack, I have seen the tragedy enough times on that day after my high school classes got canceled for almost two days and I came to accept the events. At the same time, being just a few degrees away from several journalists killed or kidnapped never to be found again I felt obligated to visit the memorial.

The wall with the names is well-designed and well-organized by year and then by country where the journalist has been seen last. However, the photograph display is located high above normal human height making it impossible to discern the faces on the top. Hence, I was able to locate only the name of Zmicier Zavadzki (Dmitry Zavadsky), the only Belarusian journalist who is considered a victim of violence even though his body has never been found. At the same time, Anna Politkovskaya, the most recent major journalist killed in Russia, has an easily-noticeable section dedicated to her, but it is primarily due to the recency of the event.

The rest of the museum is the modern history told through snippets from newspapers and journalists. Newseum would be very educational for children who know little about the media beyond MTV and reality shows. However, a person like me who knows more about journalism and media than the average Joe might find the experience somewhat disappointing and limited.

P.S. This is my most favorite front page of all times. Nothing can describe the technological advances of today than this famously erroneous headline.

blog comments powered by Disqus