Temple or Memorial?


These days the news business appears to be teetering precariously between extinction and a banal ubiquity. On the one hand, each day seems to usher in more crises for newspapers, the traditional bastion of serious, for-the-record daily enlightenment. Beset by plummeting advertising and sinking circulation, the medium is declining before our eyes. Recently, the Tribune Corporation (parent of the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, and other esteemed dailies) declared bankruptcy, while no less an icon than the New York Times began selling front-page display ads.

At the same time, electronic outlets (blogs, CNN and other news-channel sites, the miniheadlines that may ornament your browser’s homepage) are so omnipresent and constant, and sometimes so trivial, that they have become little more than background noise. Too much news is sometimes no news at all, as various election nonstories made clear.

Anchoring itself boldly between these two extremes is the Newseum, a 250,000-sq.-ft. homage to journalism that, after a previous incarnation in Arlington, Virginia, opened in Washington, D.C., last April to considerable fanfare. Located near the National Mall, the complex of multimedia exhibit halls and theaters bills itself as the “world’s most interactive museum,” a claim it backs up with ample user-friendly technology, such as studios that allow you to film yourself...

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.