on October 20, 2019 by Sean Michael Milligan in Journal, Comments (0)


My trip to the Newseum this past Monday was only the second time I’ve been, but I’m going to miss it. The whole place is a love letter to journalism and the free press, and I would bet it’s inspired at least a few people working in the field right now.

The Newseum starts visitors off big, with the Berlin Wall exhibit. It really drives home the lengths people will go to for their freedom — and how much freedom we have here in America, that we take entirely for granted. There are still people out there fighting for their freedom, Hong Kong being today’s most visible example, and if the news media wasn’t covering the protests there, they wouldn’t be nearly as effective or have garnered so much global support.

The Hall of News History could almost qualify as a museum in and of itself. The exhibit is utterly massive, and a guest could probably spend their whole visit there and still have more to see after leaving. It may feel like the field of journalism is going a little off the rails these days, with the digital media revolution, but seeing the history of journalism laid out before me helped me see that there will always be a need for professional journalists.

I noticed something interesting in the 9/11 exhibit, which has a wall full of front pages about the attacks. Most of the papers had dramatic headlines: “America’s Darkest Day,” from the Detroit Free Press; “America Attacked,” from Newsday; most memorable to me was the Examiner‘s headline, which was simply the word “BASTARDS!”, exclamation point included, in two- or three-inch high letters. Looking at the “big three,” though — The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal — I saw very different headlines. “Terrorists Hijack 4 Airliners, Destroy World Trade Center, Hit Pentagon; Hundreds Dead,” read the Post‘s headline. The Journal‘s was similar: “Terrorists Destroy World Trade Center, Hit Pentagon in Raid with Hijacked Jets.” The Times had the most dramatic headline of the three: “U.S. Attacked,” but unlike the similar headline in Newsday, the Times followed immediately with an informative subhead: “Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers and Hit Pentagon in Day of Terror.” These headlines, compared to the others on the wall, let me know that these were papers interested in reporting the news, not sensationalizing it, no matter how inherently sensational that news might be.

The Newseum has many more fascinating exhibits, of course, but those were three that resonated strongly with me. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to visit once more before it closes at the end of the year.

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