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Friday, May 6, 2016

Basic Biittner: A new attraction

Monday, September 22, 2008

I was on vacation last week, and spent most of the week getting to know my 2-year-old granddaughter better. She (and her parents) live in a Washington, D.C. suburb, so my wife and I did spend one day doing the "tourist" thing in our nation's capital. We have had family members living and working there at various times, so we have been fortunate enough to see most of the "typical" tourist destinations at least once. This time, we chose to visit a couple of sites we'd never seen before, both located on Pennsylvania Avenue, in fairly close proximity to one another. First we visited the Navy Memorial and Heritage Center, which is a wonderful tribute to or men and women a sea.

The primary thing I wanted to see, though, was The Newseum, which just opened in 2007. I have stated my love of Halls of Fame many times on these pages, and my colleague Mike Leckband hit it right on the head when he called the Newseum a "Hall of Fame for News."

Since I'm in the news business, it is no wonder that I had a desire to see this new attraction, since the Newseum is all about the gathering of news. I found out when we arrived at the building, that the front of the building, at street level, has the front pages of papers from each of he 50 states on display, so if you are waiting on the sidewalk, you can catch up on the news from home (or wherever).

The building has six floors, and the welcoming guide suggests, after you pay the $20 admission fee, that you view a film (narrated by CBS' Charles Osgood) called "What's News? " in the Orientation Theater on the concourse, then begin the self-guided tour on the sixth floor. When you arrive there, you are welcome to go out on the terrace and view (and photograph) "one of the best views of Pennsylvania Avenue and the U.S. Capitol Building." It certainly is that, and a fellow sightseer was kind enough to volunteer to snap a photo of my wife and I with the Capitol in the background. We're not the only ones who have used the backdrop. ABC's George Stephanopholous does his Sunday morning :This Week" T.V. show in a small third floor studio at the Newseum, so that he can have the real Capitol building in the background, rather than a typical "blue screen" photo, as has been the custom with newscasters for years.

One of the other displays on the sixth floor is similar to that on the outside of the building, but expanded to include the front page of today's newspaper from cities around the globe.

The fifth floor features six of the 15 theaters in the building, including a big screen theater. Each of these theaters feature brief films about a specific news topic. Some which we viewed included a film on "Hollywood and the News: Fact or Fiction?," a short film on newsreels (remember them?), and a 30-minute film - hosted by Ahmad Rashad - called "The Press Box," which is all about the history of sports coverage on television. Roone Arledge, Howard Cosell and Bob Costas are among those interviewed in the piece.

On the 4th floor, visitors can visit the 9/11 Gallery, which features news coverage from Sept. 11, 2001, and actual artifacts from the three sites which were hit that day. One artifact is a section of a t.v. antenna which was on top of one of the Twin Towers; another is a section of the Pentagon which was hit that day. A section of the fuselage of Flight 93, downed in Pennsylvania, is also on display in the gallery, but the most chilling display, to me, is the camera and camera case of a free-lance photographer who lived a few blocks from the World Trade Center. The man headed for Ground Zero to take photos that day and just kept on walking toward the scene, even as others were running the other way. In a touching film clip, his wife describes the day. The photographer perished doing the thing he loved, but also captured the final photos of the plane striking the second tower. His camera was found and the film developed, so the world could see what he saw in his law minutes. The battered camera and case are on display behind glass in the 9/11 Gallery.

Among the features of the Third Floor are a display about the great WW II and early TV journalist Edward R. Murrow, and the Pennsylvania Avenue where George S. does his Sunday morning show

A TV studio where, for a $5 fee, visitors can pretend they are a newscaster, presenting the news on television, is a highlight of the Second floor. As is a display of Pulitzer Prize winning photographs and, of course, a Newseum store, where visitors may purchase news-related books, DVD, t-shirts, sweat shirts, caps, etc. The store is also on the first floor, as is the Annenberg Theater, where visitors view a film about three inspiring journalists, presented in "4-D." Just put on the 3-D glasses and be prepared -- the "4th dimension" involves a seat which rocks back-and-forth occasionally during the film.

Also on the concourse is a display on the Berlin Wall, featuring an actual guard tower and eight 12-foot high sections of the original wall, a cafeteria featuring Wolfgang Puck Catering, the sports theater where "The Press Box" film previously mentioned plays, and a Documentary Theater.

I hope my description of the Newseum inspires those of you who may be visiting Washington D.C. to check out this latest tourist attraction for yourself. Like all good museums and Halls of Fame, you'll need to allow yourself plenty of time to see as many of the exhibits and displays as you can.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner