Tuesday, May 08, 2007
American Journalism: Off the Monitor, In D.C.’s Face
(Digital Media Fatigue Syndrome: How to Deal, Part 2)
Whether it's intended as a thumb in the President's eye or a bracing slap to the collective face of a dishevelled and discredited Wahington, D.C. press corps, the new Newseum building currently going up on Pennsylvania Avenue and scheduled to open on October 15th is certainly not just a stodgy mausoleum for journalism past. Its double-edged message is up front and center: a sleek modern facade of glass framed in concrete (evoking an enormous computer monitor), coupled with the fourth estate's historic anchor, the First Amendment, set in a huge slab of stone hovering over the heads of all passersby. Inside will be interactive exhibits galore and a media wall which will be visible from the street. And in a concession to the importance of lifestyle these days, the luxurious Newseum Residences will also be part of the scene. (Check out the views!)
The high-tech sheen is to be expected, as revered news orgs across the country scramble to keep profitable and relevant in the high-volume, byte-sized Internet Age. In a particularly canny move, however, the Newseum will double as a repository of historic artifacts, ranging from the gee-whiz of Edward R. Murrows' microphone (top, left) to the sobering souvenirs of the ongoing calamity, such as bullet-ridden news vans and murdered newsman Daniel Pearl's laptop. As a D.C. experience for young and old, the Newseum will fall somewhere between the exhileration of the Air and Space Museum and the sombre hush of the Holocaust Memorial.
As I opined in a previous post, it's ever more important to look away from the phosphene stream once in a while and replenish our ties with unmediated, concrete reality, whether current or historic; especially as the distinction between conscientiously delivered news and passively consumed and processed information begins to blur. One would hope that to gaze upon Murrow's vintage microphone is to be struck not only by the man's lingering physical presence but by the personal conviction that proved more powerful on the airwaves of his day than the market-tested banalities of dozen HD-enhanced, silver-coiffed anchors in post 9/11 America.