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Media critics have had some fun at the expense of the Newseum, the glimmering new 250,000-square foot edifice on D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s true that the Freedom Forum–sponsored journalism museum—complete with a Wolfgang Puck restaurant and a 74-foot marble etching of the First Amendment—seems a bit ostentatious for an industry purportedly on its death bed.
But with all the pomp and vanity on display in Washington, it’s good to spare some veneration for the First Amendment and the press’s watchdog function. And the Newseum venerates well. It’s hard to avoid a pleasing sense of nostalgia while watching old TV coverage of the last halfcentury’s biggest stories as they were breaking. Another interactive display allows visitors to browse headlines dating back 500 years.
The Newseum imparts an appreciation for the media’s historical role in a free society. Unfortunately, it’s less convincing when it tries to persuade us that the journalism business has adapted to the information age.—Radley Balko