With so many places to see and things to do in the Washington, DC area, it can be difficult to prioritize what to see next. On Chari’s list was a museum that had opened since she left the area. It is a museum dedicated to print, radio, TV and now digital media. It’s a museum about news, the Newseum, and is located at 7th and F streets. Since our truck with kayaks on top doesn’t fit into most parking garages, we rode the Metro in from Vienna to Metro Center, changed trains to Gallery Place and walked 4-5 blocks. The building is an impressive six story glass walled structure. Your ticket is good for two consecutive days so plan on either one very full day or split your visit between other attractions. Had we known how much there is to see, we’d have gotten there earlier. By the time we reached the upper floors we were cutting things short and this was after almost five hours there!
The view from the sixth floor is a must. The juxtaposition of the Newseum and the Capitol building speaks volumes in its silence. Two of the things that make our country great is Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. The three other Freedoms we are guaranteed are Freedom to Petition, Freedom to Assemble and Freedom of Religion. These Five Freedoms are well displayed in front of a tri-colored map showing the world separated into free press, partially controlled press, and no freedom of the press countries. In 2008 I was on an tour in Africa that included the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls. While we were on a river wildlife cruise one evening we spoke with a college student working as crew. When we asked about the upcoming elections, he dropped his voice and glanced over his shoulder to make sure no one could overhear his answer. It made me realize what it is to live in fear of stating one’s beliefs. As I began writing this post I started reading A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant about Paul and Julia Childs. The opening chapter is about Paul Childs being investigated during the McCarthy period when anyone and everyone could be suspected of having Communist tendencies. We are not immune. With all of the serious displays there is a humorous one too as you will see below.
There was a temporary exhibit on the first floor titled FBI’s Top Ten Stories in the press. It covered from the Lindberg kidnapping to John Gotti, the Kennedy assassination, the Civil Rights movement, the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing, the Uni Bomber, Hoover and 9/11. I realized how many of these important events had occurred during my lifetime. Just looking at the displays transported me back in time. I was 16 and sitting in Spanish II when Kennedy was shot. Then I was in college in Boston when riots broke out following the MLK assassination. It was 1995 and I’d just come home from the hospital following cancer surgery when the Oklahoma bombing happened. The Newseum will be opening a new exhibit about John and Jacqueline Kennedy in April.
There was a section on famous men and women in journalism from Nelly Bly to Edward R. Murrow and Tim Russert. The one that caught my attention was Pauline Frederick. Who? I’d never heard of her either. Why, I don’t know. She was one of the first women to write regularly for name newspapers and to break into news broadcasting. When no head of state would allow themselves to be interviewed by a woman, she interviewed their wives as a way to get her work published. Eventually she wrote a book compiling these articles. She was the first female to broadcast from a foreign country as a war correspondent and the first woman to be a full time employee of a US television network (ABC). She moved to NBC where she became the reporter at the United Nations for 21 years. She returned to radio with NPR for the last five years of her career.
There was a display of all the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs from 1942 when the prize was originated to 2012. There are two categories each year: News and Feature. Occasionally there have been two photos honored in the same category. No prize was issued in 1946. Sounds like a good Jeopardy question.
Nearby was a piece of the Berlin Wall and a guard tower with news reports of the wall being built, escape attempts and the wall being torn down. This is the largest section of the wall outside of Germany. In 1972 while in the Air Force I took a free flight on a KC-135 (refueling plane) and traveled for a month on my own. I started in Spain then flew on to Frankfurt. From there I boarded the nightly Army train from Frankfurt to West Berlin that crossed through East Germany. As we crossed the border Soviet soldiers came aboard to check everyone’s papers. It gave me a chill to think I was in a Communist country where people couldn’t move about freely. The wall separated the two parts of the city of Berlin. It was plain gray concrete then, cold and forbidding. It left an impression on me. Never did I think I’d see the wall demolished.
The other physically impressive exhibit was about 9-11. A wall several stories high is covered with front pages from around the world. In the center is the antenna that was mounted on the broadcast tower. Among those killed that day were six broadcast engineers who were at work for all of the major networks in New York City. Steve took a great picture of a young boy about 10 or so looking up at the wall. It struck both of us that there is a new generation now for whom this is history. They weren’t even born then.
Realizing that we had less than an hour to finish the Newseum we went through the Presidential Pets gallery, the extensive rare documents display from 1455 to the present and saw the 4D movie. If you go to Washington DC put this museum on your list. You won’t be disappointed.