Tuesday, July 15, 2008

News as Entertainment - the Newseum in Washington

Last week, we took some time to visit the Newseum, the brand new museum dedicated to news opened sponsored by a consortium of organizations. Surprise, surprise -- the museum was "pro-news". Go figure. Actually, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I am, after all, a bit of a news junkie. But I found that the museum was more interested in the actual news events themselves than the way that news is covered per se.
Most alarmingly, I didn't see any attention given to the shortening and changing nature of news - and especially television news. It has become increasingly clear that the attention span of the average viewer has become increasingly shorter as time progresses. Yet, the museum did not really address the gradual shift from news coverage to sound bites and formulaic coverage. While the 4D infotainment movie about the news (straight out of Epcot Center and Universal Studios) was certainly fun and highlighted the contributions of Edward R. Murrow and the investigative reporting of Nellie Bly, the museum conveniently neglected the shrinking budgets of news services, increasing reliance on blogging, and the near eradication of investigative reporting.
A former member of mine (I left the shul, not her) recently left the newspaper business for precisely that reason; the lack of reporting integrity, the increasing pressure of coming in on deadline, and the inability to have the time and resources to do true community reporting.
The museum was certainly flashy and entertaining, but it lacked a sense of depth and seriousness in covering the news.
Kind of like news coverage itself. I guess in that way the Newseum presents an accurate depiction of the news.