The ballyhooed media museum, which has been around for more than a decade, shut its doors in Rosslyn, Va., in 2002 in preparation for this new, upgraded facility, which cost $450 million to build.
But to me, the notion of opening a monument to the monumental egos of media people just seems self-indulgent.
If journalists are charged with identifying pompous and pretentious politicians, Wall Street executives and even ballplayers, when did our fellow media members become sacred cows?
Changing the popular view
I do feel a little traitorous needling the Newseum, and I mean no offense to the people who worked hard to finance and construct it.
The place, however, was built purportedly to celebrate the media's rich history and to educate non-newsies about the industry's contributions to society and popular culture.
Maybe amid the excitement of raising enough dough to construct this museum, the powers-that-be momentarily forgot that a lot of people already have a fixed view of media professionals. Many have despised, distrusted and/or mocked us at one point or another -- often with considerable justification.
In creating the Newseum's exhibits, curators may have overlooked some of the most memorable -- and shameful -- moments in the media. In the spirit of helping, I've taken the liberty of compiling a list of the top 10.
Drum roll, please
Welcome to Media Web's "Do As I Say, Not As I Do" wing of the Newseum. Here are the 10 featured exhibits:
1. I Gave CBS the Best Four Decades of My Life and All I Got Was This Lousy Pink Slip: This displays a statue of Dan Rather, who was the most convenient villain (or was it scapegoat?) for CBS' disastrous "60 Minutes" segment on President George W. Bush's National Guard service. CBS and Rather both apologized, but Rather took the fall, inelegantly and loudly.
2) Give War a Chance: This features none other than Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter whose poorly sourced stories helped elicit support for the U.S.' ill-advised invasion of Iraq.
3) No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Roughly a decade ago, the New York Times decided to make Jayson Blair a star. Little did the Times realize he'd turn on them so viciously and write a string of fabricated stories, leading to the professional demise of the paper's two top editors.
4. Who Says a Newspaper Reporter Can't Make a Decent Buck? R. Foster Winans, who wrote the Wall Street Journal's "Heard on the Street" column a quarter-century ago, showed it can be done! All it takes, apparently, is an insider's knowledge of the stock market, some decent connections on Wall Street and absolutely no scruples! Winans served time in prison in connection with giving a stockbroker an early heads-up on his column's subject material. (The Journal, like MarketWatch, is now a unit of News Corp. .)
5. Cinderella: This tells the saga of how a young reporter (Janet Cooke) and a great American daily newspaper (the Washington Post ) realized the ambition of winning a Pulitzer for an astonishing story about an 8-year-old heroin dealer working the streets of Washington. True, she owned the award for only a few days: When Cooke admitted she had made it all up, editors were reminded that when a story seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. It's a lesson the media have never quite grasped, unfortunately.
6. Money for Nothing: This is a display of Time Inc.'s canceled check, (reportedly for $6 million, according to industry speculation), made out to Jennifer Lopez for the right to publish photos of her newborn twins in People magazine. I hope the journalists who have been laid off from the company over the past few years get free copies of the magazine.
7. Who Says Journalists Have NoSense of Humor? Not Time Out Chicago! It recently played an April Fool's joke on the world when it said that Donald Trump had purchased the magazine. It was, of course, a hoax -- and a stupid one. It was damaging, too, because Crain's Chicago took the bait and ran with the made-up story.
8. Name That President! This is the height of participatory journalism because, gosh darn it, everyone gets to act like a television news anchor and deliver an actual broadcast. Guess who won the 2000 presidential election? On election night, your guess was as good as the television networks', which bungled the assignment. In 1972, Timothy Crouse wrote a brilliant, biting book called "The Boys on the Bus" to mark the 1972 presidential campaign. Twenty-eight years later, he could've called a new volume "Throw the Boys Under the Bus!"
9. Who's That Girl? What's a museum without a whiff of intrigue? The New York Times recently published a story that said, in so many words, that campaign advisers of Sen. John McCain had tried hard to keep a lobbyist away from him during the 2000 campaign. But really, the story all but suggested that McCain may have had an inappropriate relationship with her. The Times never apologized for the lame story, but it still should.
10. Take the Money and Run: Let's not forget the bean counters. In 1999, the Los Angeles Times looked greedy and stupid when it published a big Sunday magazine section dealing with the Staples Center, the home of basketball and hockey teams in downtown Los Angeles. It eventually spilled out that the newspaper was dividing the advertising profits with the arena. Whoops.
: Do you intend to visit the new Newseum in Washington?
: Walt Disney's ESPN unit gets a lot of justifiable criticism for the heavy-handed way it covers sports, but people should give credit where it is due, too. Last Saturday, ESPN did an artful job of covering the exhibition game between the New York Mets and the Chicago White Sox in Memphis. The final score was largely irrelevant because the game was held to honor the memory of Martin Luther King and to shine a light on the civil rights movement. ESPN's announcers conducted the in-game interviews with sensitivity and intelligence -- and the whole event was thankfully more entertaining than preachy. Lovely job, ESPN.
to my March 19 column:
"There is absolutely no need for a 'kind of Pentagon Papers for the Iraq War.' The problem was never a lack of knowledge of the facts, of the truth, of the reality. The problem was the media not having the will, the courage to confront the Administration's drive to war and disseminate those facts."
-- Bob Siegel
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By Jon Friedman