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A colossal museum dedicated to giving a worthy place in history to those who cover history as it happens opens the doors of its impressive new home.
By Joseph Guinto


Deadlines -- journalists live in fear of them. Which is why it’s a little surprising that the Newseum, a $450 million facility dedicated to the evolving field of newsmaking, missed its hoped-for opening date of late 2007. But this wasn’t necessarily bad news, because even though it was six months behind schedule when it finally opened on April 11, the mammoth, 250,000- square-foot building just off the National Mall in Washington, D.C., made a spring debut. And, for all the impressive content within the Newseum -- including a news helicopter that dangles from the giant atrium and a broadcast tower salvaged from the World Trade Center in Manhattan -- its idyllic location on the now-blooming Pennsylvania Avenue is equally impressive. From the 3,000- square-foot terrace, seven levels up, visitors can see an unmatched panorama of Washington, including many of the Mall’s architectural masterworks and the Capitol dome, with the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court behind it.
 

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If the views seem beside the point for a museum about TV, radio, print, spoken, and online news, well, they aren’t. The Newseum’s stated mission is to provide “a forum where the media and the public can gain a better understanding of each other.” That’s why the glass facade allows passersby to see inside the Newseum and lets Newseum-goers see out. Get it? It’s an architectural metaphor about openness and freedom of the press. “The Newseum is not a journalists hall of fame,” says Joe Urschel, a former USA Today editor who is the Newseum’s executive director. “This is a museum that looks at the relationship between news, free speech, a free press, and a democratic society.”

Despite that serious mission, the Newseum is hardly staid. The facility bills itself as the “world’s most interactive museum,” and there are more touch screens here than you’ll find in a dozen Apple stores. Want to know what’s going on in Florence, Alabama, today? Go to an interactive kiosk and call up the front page of the Times Daily, one of almost 600 newspapers from around the world that electronically transmit their content to the Newseum. Want to know what it’s like to be a TV reporter -- or, perhaps, a Daily Show correspondent? Stand in front of a video screen with a backdrop of the Capitol and read your script off a teleprompter.

All of that is certainly more fun than spending a few hours in your hometown paper’s newsroom. Trust us. We probably used to work there.




Our Five Favorite Newseum Features

 


Built Armor-Tough
This armor-plated truck, used by Time photographers, was hit by a mortar round and is riddled with bullet holes. The photographers survived.

 

 

Getting the Pretend Scoop
The NBC News Interactive Newsroom is the most fun Newseum feature: It has 7,000 square feet of space; 40 interactive kiosks where you act the part of a photojournalist, reporter, or editor; and eight “Be a TV Reporter” camera stations.

 

Thanks, Gutenberg
The Early News Gallery tells the story of how stories were told before the arrival of the printing press. The ancient Sumerian clay bricks with cuneiform writing would likely be hard to read on the subway commute.

 

Sad News
The names of more than 1,800 journalists who were killed on the job are etched into the Journalists Memorial, a wall of curving glass panels. Unfortunately, there is plenty of room for the memorial to grow.

 

Is that George
Stephanwhatshisname?

Expect to see plenty of famous faces working in the Newseum’s two high-tech TV studios in upcoming months. Especially on Sundays --This Week with George Stephanopoulos starts airing this month from a studio overlooking the United States Capitol. -- J.G.