The Newseum – impressive building and fantastic exhibits

Washington DC, Monday 15th September 2008

Today I made my pilgrimage to the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue, a few blocks from the White House. The Newseum was opened only a few months ago in a brand new glass building in the heart of the US capital city.

I learned something new too. I didn’t know about Rudyard’s Kipling’s poem, The Elephant’s Child, that contains the six news questions.

Paul Sparrow

Paul Sparrow

The Newseum Vice-President of Broadcasting and Programming, Paul Sparrow showed me around this impressive structure that contains loads of interesting interactive displays (about 130 screens) covering thehistory and future of journalism.Paul was fantastic talent and he guided me around some of the key exhibits as we conducted a roving interview.

While the focus is on American media and the First Amendment, there are great exhibits covering press freedom around the globe and also memorials to journalists and newsworkers who’ve been killed in the line of duty.

The exhibitions cover about 250,000 square feet and take up seven floors. There are really good interactive displays that take you through the history of journalism and also allow you to see hundreds of today’s front pages as they are published around the world.

I saw a few school groups in the Newseum, particularly around the 9/11 memorial which holds a large chunk of the broadcast/communications tower that sat atop the World Trade Tower. When I asked Paul about how young people are interacting with news he was very upbeat. He argues that, despite the fears of journalism educators and news editors, teenagers are not totally turning off the news, they’re just dealing with it differently.

He says that the interactive aspects of the Newseum are designed to hook into how today’s youth are consuming news via a multitude of screens. I shot some footage in the Newseum and when I get a chance to upload and edit some of it, I’ll post it.

In the meantime, on a lighter note, there’s a fun side to the Newseum. On the huge screen in the impressive atrium entrance hall there’s a video loop and part of it features some funny blooper headlines and news grabs.

Here’s a few of my favourites.

I don’t really like much about Kipling, but this short verse is not too bad.

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views;
I know a person small-
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!

She sends ’em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes-
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!

The Elephant’s Child


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