Newseum being built on deadline, like a real front page

Published 7:45 am Monday, April 24, 2006

By Staff
I could live there, but right now I'll settle for visiting the seven-level Newseum when its 1.5 miles of galleries, exhibits, theaters and interactive experiences open on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington in the fall of 2007.
One of the 15 theaters, with 535 seats, is four-dimensional, with a Hollywood-produced 3-D movie, moving seats and other sensory effects.
As far as living there, 135 apartments are called Residences at the Newseum.
It must be in the thick of the tourist vista since it offers unparalleled elevated views of such landmarks as the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, the National Gallery of Art and the Washington Monument.
Of course, I haven't been to D.C. since the Nixon administration.
For now I'll have to content myself with a virtual tour at
At this Web site you can also view more than 500 front pages from around the world and comb a memorial database about more than 1,500 journalists killed covering news.
Once, programs were designed for journalists and students, but much more emphasis today is on educating the public about First Amendment and free-press issues.
That's because the first Newseum, which opened in 1997 in Arlington, Va., proved a bigger draw than imagined, attracting 2.25 million visitors.
In 2001, executives decided to relocate to Washington in a building that would aim to be a memorable architectural icon.
But let's return to the Newseum as its “editors” scramble to meet the ultimate deadline of developing a world-class museum of news.
Executive Director Joe Urschel joined the Newseum from USA Today, but I remember when he reported for the Detroit Free Press.
There will be 12 main galleries and 12 stand-alone exhibits with 70,000 square feet of displays. For example, the Sept. 11 gallery tells the story of how the news media covered the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
All the elements of advanced technology converge in the Forum Theater, where visitors will be enthralled while experiencing three big historical news events.
With images floating through the air, 360-degree sound and seats that move with the onscreen action, viewers will stand with correspondent Edward R. Murrow on a London rooftop during a live radio report during World War II, ride with colonists to the Battle of Lexington and sneak around with investigative reporter Nellie Bly as she goes undercover in a mental institution.
And it gets better.
The system is so sophisticated that it monitors itself for problems. “Almost every single device will be able to predict its own failure and e-mail the control room that it's breaking,” according to Director of Engineering George O'Connor.
The Newseum will be so saturated with technology that it will need to be turned on in a staggered, 20-minute sequence to avoid blowing the power grid.
Another cool feature is an interactive game illustrating ethical dilemmas newsrooms face.
Players respond to rapid-fire scenarios testing honesty, integrity, accuracy and fairness.
Rewards are front-page elements such as headlines and photos. First team to finish its newspaper wins.
The building's upside-down construction and sheer enormity are daunting. Instead of supporting columns, floors of the galleries actually hang from beams. Seven trusses are in turn supported by concrete pillars.
The trusses - up to 111 feet long and 76 tons each - were made in Canada and moved on special trucks to Washington.
Perhaps the artifact that most surprised me is the bombed remains of the white Datsun in which Arizona investigative journalist Don Bolles lost his life.
There will be notable front pages from its collection of 40,000 newspapers spanning 500 years, Berlin Wall panels coupled with an East German guard tower, microphones used by Walter Cronkite and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Murrow's desk, the first satellite news-gathering truck and memorabilia from the careers of Ted Koppel, Ernie Pyle, Bob Woodward, Howard Stern, Tim Russert and Dowagiac visitor Helen Thomas.
Ice-encrusted Michael Collins, the Irish novelist due in Dowagiac May 16 to give his third annual Union High School writing prizes, appears in the April 24 Sports Illustrated for winning the North Pole Marathon in -23 degrees C April 8 in a record field of 54 runners.
Time magazine's highlighted global warming letter in the April 24 issue is by Valerie Fons of Dowagiac.
It's probably already being turned into a “Grey's Anatomy” plotline: A 33-year-old Oregon man went to a Portland hospital complaining of a headache - from 12 nails embedded in his skull from a suicide attempt with a nail gun while high on methamphetamine, the Journal of Neurosurgery reports.
Obits: William Sloane Coffin Jr., 81, the anti-war Yale University chaplain who inspired minister Scot Sloane in “Doonesbury.”
Dr. Eugene Landy, 71, the therapist who treated Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys between 1975 and 1991, died March 22 from lung cancer in Honolulu.
Buck Owens, 76, on March 25 in his sleep at his Bakersfield, Calif., home. Besides “prostituting myself for money” on the hillbilly variety show “Hee Haw,” Owens wrote “Act Naturally,” which the Beatles covered on “Help” in 1965.
Gene Pitney, crooner, 65, while touring in Britain. The teen idol wrote “Rubber Ball” for Bobby Vee and “Hello Mary Lou” for Ricky Nelson.
The CIA fired Mary McCarthy, a veteran employee nearing retirement, for leaking classified information about covert prisons in eastern Europe that resulted in a Pulitzer Prize for Dana Priest of The Washington Post. A federal criminal investigation into leaks has been opened.
Anniversary: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 30.