5 reasons the Newseum should be on your itinerary

Extra, Extra…SEE all about it!

by Dan Robertson

Since the spring of 2008, the corner of 6th and Pennsylvania Ave. NW has been home to one newest and most intriguingly named museums in Washington, DC.  Within the walls of this very modern building are some of the most interesting and engaging exhibits that appeal to a wide range of ages and curiosities.  Upon considering the must-see destinations while touring in DC, the Newseum may not stand out in your mind, but it should!  

You don’t have to be a “news junkie” like me to find this place amazing.  First of all, it covers far more than the news and the history of it.  Upon visiting the Newseum website, you will quickly learn that the name is a clever play on words and that, along with giving a great history of journalism, the primary purpose of the organization is to be a champion of the “5 Freedoms” guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.  Prominently chiseled on the façade of the building is one of the most powerful statements of law in the entire world.


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Time at the Newseum is experiential education at it’s best. Prior to even walking through the front door, you are greeted by the front pages of newspapers from each of the 50 states before being awed by the 100’ TV screen in the atrium.  From there, you can sit through a 4D movie (yes, that’s 4 dimensions) before meandering your way from the top floor down through history, pop culture and how TV and the news is made.  (And, by the way, the view from the roof top terrace is spectacular!)  During this journey, you will encounter the mangled remains of an antenna from the top of the World Trade Center as well as actual sections of the Berlin Wall.  You can also film your own TV news spot and view a captivating timeline of Pulitzer Prize winning photography.  I could go on and on; the list of exhibits and reasons why your students will enjoy this place is long.  However, here are just five reasons the Newseum is a must-see on your school’s tour to Washington, DC:

1.  The “5 Freedoms” – It is easy to take for granted how unique and fortunate we are as Americans to have the freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly, and to petition the government codified in one sentence so prominently in our Constitution.  In the wake of the terror attack on the satirical newspaper in France, a deeper appreciation of these 5 freedoms is even more imperative than ever.  What do these freedoms actually mean?  What exactly do they allow us as Americans, and what constraints (if any) are placed on them?  Has the understanding and application of these freedoms changed over time; and if so, why and how?  Your students not only learn the answers to these questions, but are also challenged to think about them and debate their own thoughts about them.

2.  More than the news – When you examine the media and the 5 Freedoms, you can’t help but cross over in to many other disciplines beyond the news and communication.  Pop culture has a prominent place in the Newseum as well as interesting perspectives on Presidential campaigns, exhibitions on the Civil Right movement, “First Dogs” (dogs of the Presidents), and even one on the FBI.

3.  FREE Resources – The Newseum is a wealth of resources to teachers and students with their Learning Center.  With a special reservation, groups can reserve classroom space in the museum at no additional charge and have a Newseum staff member conduct any number of classes to challenge students understanding and knowledge of the media, current events, ethics or the affect Supreme Court rulings.  They also offer the Digital Classroom that is a free resource to teachers full of video lesson plans and learning modules to act as a prequel or follow-up to your group’s visit.  

4.   Unique view of history – Its surprising how a study of the media is truly a study of the evolution of our country and the state of the world today.  Think about battlefield coverage from the Vietnam War to the war in Iraq and how that has shaped our understanding of the blight of war.  Consider how the “new” media (citizen journalists and social media) has had an impact on political campaigns.  Challenge your students to think about what life was like without instant access to information in the midst of a national disaster, and then debate the merits.  All of this is done through the lens (no pun intended) of the media’s role in this evolution and progression through history.

5.  Interactive – This may be the best part!  On every floor of the Newseum, there is a way for students to view exhibits interactively.  One of the most popular features is the studio where students can make and film their own newscast.  Sit in front of the green screen, read a teleprompter and be the anchor while you are filmed.  Discover your hidden talent as an interviewer and take the video home with you!  Another feature is the 4-D theater.  Never heard of the “fourth dimension”?  Well, imagine a 3-D movie that includes moving seats, wind blowing on you or snow falling as you watch it on screen.  Don’t miss this!  There are a variety of movies that last no longer than 15 minutes and can be viewed periodically throughout the day.

Do yourself and your students a favor and add the Newseum to your itinerary.  You will definitely be glad you did!

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