Yesterday, I took my ten-dollar Groupon and headed over to the Newseum. And thank goodness for the Groupon, because in a town full of free museums, I wouldn't pay the $21.95 plus tax it normally costs to go otherwise. The Newseum is run by a non-profit organization, so I can see why they need to charge something for admission, but I find something wrong with the fact that a museum celebrating one of our basic freedoms costs so much to get into. Apparently the Newseum costs a ton for upkeep, so maybe they should work on reducing those costs so that they can reduce the cost to visitors.
Enough ranting. The Newseum is a really cool place. I already had a strong appreciation for journalism, thanks to my fine undergraduate journalism education, but I think the museum packs so much history and culture in that even the most curmudgeonly, anti-media person would find something there to appreciate. The admission ticket is good for two consecutive days, and it would really take that much time to really read and watch all of the content. It gives you a different perspective of the current events that have impacted our lives - I remember how I felt as a regular citizen during 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, but seeing how the media reported on what was happening was fascinating. For example, have you ever thought about how newspapers in New Orleans continued reporting and publishing without electricity, or even offices? They figured out a way to pick up and move the whole shop so that they could at least publish an online version. They managed to resume printing a dead-trees version within days (or a couple weeks) after the hurricane. The stories of reporters from both of those tragic events are so moving, and their perspectives make you think about them in ways you hadn't considered as a news consumer.
Here's a dilemma for you to ponder. Say you're a reporter, and you're covering some tragedy. It's your job to provide an objective report of what's happening in front of you. You know that stopping to help people will insert you into the story and keep you from reporting objectively. But these people need help. We're all human after all, and it's possible that no one else will come by later to help them. What do you do? The 9/11 and Katrina stories and the gallery of incredibly moving Pulitzer prize-winning photographs show how journalists dealt with that dilemma, sometimes with good outcomes and sometimes with lasting regret.
Thankfully the Newseum isn't just about the tragedies; it also showcases the history of journalism in the U.S. and around the world and celebrates pop culture in the media as well (see: the Elvis exhibit). Martin Sheen tells the history of the freedom of the press in the U.S. (That man was born to be the voice of American history, wasn't he? I would believe anything he told me.) A giant map on the wall shows the levels of freedom the press enjoys in each country around the world. Guess what: the press in most countries are either partially free or not free. We may despise the things that people in the media say or do in this country, but the freedom to say or do those things is rare and precious. Just as we are free to say what we wish, we are also free to not listen to things we don't like or don't agree with - something that we should exercise more than we do.
Speaking of which, do you know the 5 basic freedoms in the U.S.? Most people can name freedom of speech and freedom of religion - do you know the other three?