August 7, 2011 Washington, D.C.

John: We’re in Washington DC and heading in to see the Newseum, a relatively new museum about the history of the press and other media. With Clark and Lewis in tow, we board the Metro. Even with it being Sunday, we want to avoid DC traffic and parking.

On the Metro, Clark sits with Mary

and Lewis sits with John

John: The Newseum is right on Pennsylavania Avenue, somewhat closer to the Capitol than to the White House. It’s just a short walk from the Archives Metro stop. Good thing, too. It’s already really hot and humid at 10:30am. Oh, yeah, that’s the way it was in 1800 also. Other than the fact that it sits on the border between Virginia (the South) and Maryland (the North, sort of), why did they put our nation’s capital here? Nonetheless, it’s a really beautiful and interesting city despite the oppressive summer heat and humidity.

Mary: Let’s see, John, maybe they put it there because no one other than native Americans and the Spanish were living in California! But it is a beautiful city and fun to visit.

John with the Capitol in the background

and Mary with the Capitol in the background

John: The Newseum is a relatively recent addition to the museum roster of the District. It’s about the history and craft of journalism, reporting and the press in general. A special emphasis is placed on the role of the five First Amendment freedoms (religion, speech, press, assembly and petition).

[Side note: only 3% of Americans can name these five freedoms; a whopping 25% can name the five Simpsons: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie. We are not surprised.]

Mary: Even John, my enormous information universe, admits he would have forgotten the right to petition. I remembered the same four that he did but cannot not name all the Simpsons.

No freedoms - a piece of the Berlin Wall

John: Other than the “I-Witness 4-D” movie, which is too short on content and too long on extreme production values, we find the museum fascinating. If only all of today’s journalism (and for that matter, political discourse) were as “fair and balanced” as this museum, maybe our country would be in less of a pickle. The USA is the country that gave the world the Bill of Rights, investigative journalism, Murrow, and Cronkite. I come away angry that we are screwing this up! As Pogo said “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Mary: The fourth “D” of the movie were the chairs that bumped when there was some sort of explosion on screen. We have run into this in other places. Except for the first time you are bumped and it is surprising, the whole effect is stupid.

John: Go see this place. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s organized in a somewhat confusing fashion. Yes, the Wolfgang Puck-catered food service needs some work. But the Newseum is special: immerse yourself in the details. We had planned to spend a couple of hours and then head over to the National Gallery nearby. Instead, we stayed until closing time.

[The tiles in the rest rooms are decorated with famous press bloopers, typos and double meanings. We search in vain for our favorite of all time: “NATO Fans Out Over Bosnia”.]

News junkies Mary, John, Clark and Lewis head home after a fine visit. Tomorrow we all will tackle the National Gallery!

Mary: For no reason except that I enjoy the movie, Sleeper, here is a shot of the leader’s nose taken while we were watching a short movie about the responsibility of the press to “get it right.”

The leader's nose

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