[Reader-list] Newseum

Ananth S sananth99 at gmail.com
Sun Apr 13 09:40:40 IST 2008

At Newseum, Mobile Phones, Bloggers Upstage Old Media
By Karen Leigh

April 11 (Bloomberg) -- When the Newseum was last open to the public  
in 2002, a prominent feature was Walter Cronkite's hulking TV camera.  
Today, when the journalism museum reopens in Washington, a spotlight  
will be on Jamal Albarghouti's phone.

Albarghouti used his mobile phone's camera to record video during  
last year's massacre at Virginia Tech University. The graduate  
student e-mailed his footage to CNN, bringing the news to the nation  
before the networks got anywhere near the scene.

That shift sums up a new mission of the interactive Newseum, which at  
$450 million is among the most expensive museums ever built: to  
reflect the revolution in the media, where citizen reporters,  
bloggers and Web sites have overtaken an industry once dominated by a  
few centralized news sources.

``We are about things that happen right away,'' said Joe Urschel,  
executive director of the museum, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue  
just blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

So determined is the museum to give the news a forward spin that even  
the building's architecture reflects the Internet: The front  
resembles an oversize computer, and the windows were designed to  
evoke the visual activity of ``a Web site screen,'' said architect  
James Polshek.

Homages to historical news coverage -- like Cronkite's camera, video  
of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 ``I Have a Dream'' speech, and Orson  
Welles's 1938 ``War of the Worlds'' radio broadcast -- which  
dominated the old Newseum in Rosslyn, Virginia, are still there.

Back Gallery

Yet, to reach the massive archive of historical news broadsheets,  
visitors must ride to the fifth floor, then take stairs to a back  
gallery. And one of the largest collections of Berlin Wall segments  
on display outside Germany is tucked away next to the food court at  
the bottom level.

Instead of focusing on the past, Newseum visitors ``will get more  
involved in what's happening now,'' said Felix Gutierrez, a Newseum  
consultant and journalism professor at the University of Southern  
California's Annenberg School for Communication.

Inside the 90-foot atrium, the museum's layout showcases new  
technology, including a 40-by-20-foot video screen. Exhibits were  
designed so they can be replaced overnight to address major news events.


In the Internet, TV and Radio gallery, short documentaries herald the  
rise of citizen journalists and bloggers and spotlight newspaper  
editors as they shift their focus to Web content. One short film  
notes the popularity of independent Web sites, such as the news and  
gossip clearinghouse operated by Matt Drudge.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at a ceremony for the facility's  
grand opening today, noted the speed at which news spreads using the  
latest technology.

``Communication travels in real time,'' she said. ``In fact, I find  
in my meetings -- and perhaps some of you do -- that it has traveled  
even before we've left the meeting: the BlackBerrys at work.''

At 250,000 square feet, the new facility is about four times the size  
of the former Newseum and cost nine times more to construct. Both  
facilities were funded mainly by a foundation established by USA  
Today founder Al Neuharth.

The new museum opens amid the newspaper industry's worst slump in at  
least 57 years. Print advertising sales fell 9.4 percent last year,  
the most since an industry group began keeping records in 1950.

Declining Membership

Blocks away from the Newseum, at the National Press Club, membership  
has fallen during the past few decades to about 3,700 from 4,500 as  
traditional reporting jobs have disappeared.

At the same time, Web-based journalism has grown. Advertising on Web  
sites gained 19 percent in 2007 according to the New York-based  
market researcher Nielsen Co.

``The media is growing,'' said Gutierrez of the Annenberg School,  
``and it's growing in a new direction.''

Bloomberg News is among the founding partners and a sponsor of the  

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