It’s been two weeks since our editorial staff attended a college media conference in Washington D.C.
We left the nation’s capital with an arsenal of tips for better reporting, but also deeply disappointed to see one of journalism’s biggest odes to the industry to be uprooted by the end of the year.
Since opening day in 2008, the Newseum has dedicated itself to increasing public understanding of the importance of a free press and the First Amendment.
“In all of the 30-plus years I spent in broadcast journalism, I would’ve never expected something like the Newseum to ever exist, anywhere,” said Paul Littman, a retired PBS broadcaster who has spent his early years of retirement volunteering at the engaging and interactive museum of news. “I was born and raised in D.C. and to see something as great as this close down will leave me heartbroken.”
As young and aspiring journalists, to walk through five floors of history and see how journalism captured every part of that left us awestruck.
One of the most visually impactful exhibits was the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery.
To see a vulture preying on a starving child in Sudan is devastating.
But to then read that the photographer later took his own life because of the trauma and grief he felt for neglecting that child portrayed the harsh reality of reporting in third world countries.
Standing in front of chunks of the Berlin Wall that once separated communism from freedom was eye-opening to the freedom that we currently take for granted.
A glimpse at the civil rights movement exhibit showed that while many people turned a blind eye to the horrible things that were happening, journalists reported on the deaths of African American people, the brutal ways they were treated and the efforts they were making to gain more rights.
Walking one floor up, we entered the Stonewall exhibit, where the first Pride flag hung on the wall.
The Newseum illustrated how rights for LGBTQ people have changed and progressed throughout the years.
As in the civil rights exhibit, this was an area of history where many people were ignoring the mistreatment of the LGBTQ community or viewed them as bad people and deserving of punishment.
Meanwhile, journalists worked to uncover the truth and report it.
In another showcase—and perhaps the most emotional— newspapers from around the world covered a singular wall, each reporting on the events of 9/11.
This exhibit highlighted Bill Biggart, a photographer and the only journalist to lose his life covering 9/11.
His gear was preserved in the Newseum, his photos having been recovered after the events of 9/11.
While we were in awe of the archives and galleries around us, other museum-goers were also drawn in by the history of news and value of free speech.
“This museum shows how the First Amendment is a gift to the world,” said Tim Neary, a professor from Worcester University in Massachusetts who was in town for a Georgetown Alumni celebration.“It’s a damn shame this place is closing. It seems like there has to be a solution.”
In a time when the Trump Administration has launched an attack on news media and criticized journalists for reporting “fake news,” the Newseum tells an important story.
It shows the way reporters have given their lives in pursuit of their craft.
It shows how history has been influenced by the news: When reporters do their jobs and report the truth, people take action and promote change.
In a survey of the Florida Tech community, we asked how reliable people believe the news is.
The survey is not reflective of the entirety of students, staff, faculty and alumni; rather a small portion—55 respondents—helps illustrate trends within a small section of our community.
The biggest takeaway from the survey is that 40 percent of respondents believe that the news is somewhat reliable and a little more than 38 percent believe it is mostly reliable, but we live in a time when the idea of fake news is broadcast and spread on social media constantly.
Pew Research Center released a report this past June in which 68 percent of Americans, which is nearly seven in 10, said that the creation and spread of fake news is causing significant harm to the nation and needs to be stopped.
There are many people with their own agenda, but a good journalist reports facts in an unbiased way.
It is a hard job without stable hours. Many countries do not have the freedom of speech that we enjoy, and journalists risk their lives and are sometimes captured, tortured or killed as they pursue a story.
According to the journalist memorial at the Newseum, 2,344 reporters, editors, photographers and broadcasters have died doing what they loved.
These people dedicated their lives to giving marginalized groups a voice, even when others were not willing to listen.
What left us shocked in D.C. was to learn about the closing of this display of journalistic excellence.
According to the Newseum’s website despite more than 11 years of service and nearly 10 million visitors, continued operations are no longer financially feasible.
It’s a shame as student reporters to have to wrap your mind around the fact that journalists are being torn down by the current administration in office with their jobs and the entire industry on the line.
More worrisome is the fact that no benefactor has stepped in to save this museum.
What will happen to those pieces of the Berlin Wall?
The preserved Articles of Confederation on display?
The piece of the antenna that remained from the top of the North World Trade Tower?
These are the questions reporters of our generation have now.