DC's Newseum is a real headliner

Twisted wreckage from the WTC's news antenna in the 9/11 exhibit
Guardian photo by Caitlin Donohue

It’s a lot to take in for a cub reporter. Seven stories of news. 250,000 square feet of news. Just down the street from our country’s Capitol Building, the Newseum is probably the most comprehensive, evocative look at the power and responsibility of the journalist under one roof that our country has yet produced.

What’s so impressive about the museum? Put simply, breadth and depth. Today’s front pages from around the US and world greet you to the museum. Inside, you journey through a carefully sculpted continuum of information and artifacts.

First up, media coverage of events that changed the course of our country- beginning with the manhunt for Lincoln’s killer and continuing through instances of incisive reporting (the role that news played in broadcasting the civil rights movement) to dark moments (a memorial to reporters who’ve died in the line of duty, threats to our Bill of Rights over the years).

There were even shades of grey- best embodied in the interactive “What Would You Do?” ethics game, which lets you weigh in on real world moral dilemmas that professional journalists face. I’m totally one of those, so I thought it would be a snap. But there were no easy answers. When it came to the iconic photo of an emaciated Sudanese baby crawling away from a vulture, a heartbreaking image that nonetheless has raised awareness of the plight of refugees the world over, I had to admit I would have swooped in to help, scattered the scavenger, before setting up the shot. So would 72 percent of the general public- but only 28 percent of the professional journalists surveyed agreed with me. The photographer who snapped the shot, Kevin Carter, won a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts- but committed suicide soon after.

Again, the responsibility of the press, a lot to take in for the young pup. But a great museum, and one that, regardless of your profession, will make you feel something.

Graffiti covered pieces of the Berlin Wall are another of the Newseum’s highlights. This was the easiest museum ever to take photos in- freedom of the press, baby!

Sections of the lunch counter that figured in the Greensboro, North Carolina civil rights sit-ins are accompanied by a news reel on the movement

Daniel Pearl’s passport and laptop, testament to the risk journalists run to inform the world of it’s most dangerous conflicts

Not the place where you want to be right before closing, when the Newseum has all but emptied out… Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber cabin is part of the “G-Men and Spies” temporary exhibit

555 Pennsylvania, Washington D.C.

Open: 9 a.m.- 5 p.m., $19.95

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