It's been awhile since my trip to D.C. (a month already, whaaat?!?!) but I can’t go without blogging about my visit to the Newseum. And yes, you read that name correctly and why yes, I am a nerd. Now it’s exactly what it sounds like…it’s a museum completely dedicated to the news, its history, the remarkable individuals who write and broadcast it, and all the forms of media it encompasses: print, television, radio, and now, the Internet.
At the risk of being labeled as the biggest geek in the world, I would just like to say that I have never been to a museum so interactive, relevant, and emotionally-charged as this one. Let me start with interactive. For me, the Newseum epitomized everything that Web 2.0 is all about but in a real, concrete, and physical way. All the videos that they showed, for instance, were quick and hip, but incredibly informative with a real potential to be a viral hit. Most importantly, however, it fully accomplished its goal of educating its viewers of what ever topic was being covered (ie: the history of the news, the Fifth Amendment Rights, photojournalism...)
But it wasn’t just the catchy videos! The Newseum also had interactive games that could entertain anyone of any age. Again, all while educating their visitors. One of these games gave you the chance to look at what goes through a typical photojournalists’ day: taking photos at the scene of a news breaking event, editing them and choosing which goes through to publication, and submitting them for approval. You could even take a video of yourself as a TV reporter, teleprompter and green screen and all! But my favorite was the “Share your comments” kiosks that could be found all around the different exhibitions. Using a touch screen computer, visitors could instantly post their thoughts of the specific exhibition and/or read other peoples’ comments. Real time feedback! Sound familiar?
And speaking of real-time, Newseum, true to the industry that it's dedicated to, was incredibly relevant. It fully embraced the move to digital media with videos and exhibitions completely dedicated to the rise of citizen journalism and blogging...something many traditional media houses struggle with today. But even more astonishing was that they had computers that displayed the day's front page of what seemed to be every single newspaper around the world. I can't even imagine the amount of work it takes to have to update all that information on a daily basis!
Finally, as I said in the beginning of my post, this was an incredibly emotionally charged museum. Yes, it was fun, hip, and interactive, but that didn't take away from the depth that is the work of journalists. At the Journalists Memorial, the names and photos of every single journalist that has died since 1837 was displayed, serving as a powerful and stark reminder of the dangers that journalists face every single day to get their story out to the masses. 88 died reporting the news in 2009 alone. We don't always remember or even recognize just how valuable their work is: exposing corruption, reporting in conflict zones, being in the thick of natural disasters...they put their lives on the line everyday to ensure that the world knows what's going on. They are our every day heroes.
Now you all know I'm a writer and the written word is something I can truly relate to. But there's something to be said about the power of a photograph. The Pulitzer Prize Photograph exhibition was really like nothing else. The raising of Old Glory on Iwo Jima, Nick Út's famous photo of the children in Southern Vietnam running after a napalm attack, the shooting of Harry Lee Oswald...with hundreds of photographs displayed, the exhibition captured the moments of history that changed the world. And um, I know this sounds cheesy but I actually cried. Standing in front of Kevin Carter's all too famous photo of the small Sudanese child in a crouched position with the vulture lurking behind, I couldn't stop myself. Not only is the photo itself so powerfully tragic but so too is the story behind it and the photographer's story. So heartbreaking. So harrowing.
So if you're ever in D.C., please visit the Newseum. It's well worth the trip and the knowledge you'll walk away with is so much richer than what you'll get out of your typical museum. I promise!