If you’re ever in Washington DC, you need to visit the Newseum

Posted on: 2012-08-07 in Resources   |   Tagged: newseum pr bucket list washington dc

By @TopLineFounder

I don’t think that many will argue with the claim that journalism has played a bigger role than any other industry in shaping history over the last 500 years.  It’s been the making and breaking of political leaders, from Kennedy to Gadaffi. It’s created movements, exposed scandals, entertained and horrified and its influence has reached every human on the planet.

And anyone working within the PR industry can no doubt cite multiple examples of journalism as both their biggest ally and their worst nightmare. That said, we have the media to thank for our very existence, which means our effectiveness as professionals will be directly related to our understanding of the industry that spawned (and now regularly scorns) us. We know that history is important in helping us to understand the present, which is perhaps why the Newseum in Washington DC is the first entry on my career bucket list for PR pros.

Founded in 1997, the Newseum presents a detailed and entertaining history of journalism and the media, from the invention of the printing press in 1455, which enabled Christopher Columbus’ account of the new world to be shared across Europe, to the twenty first century MoJo, or mobile journalist, who captures news on his cell phone and shares it via social networks.

A mosey through the Newseum’s six stories is really a tour of recent history, starting with the sixth floor on which are displayed today’s front pages from hundreds of papers around the world (on Thursday, mainly dominated by Olympic medal-holders), sent every day to the Newseum and printed for exhibition. Other highlights include an exhibit on the eighteenth century attempt by the British government to curb media influence by placing a tax on reporting; a section on the use of anonymous sources and an overview of the debate this has prompted on the conflict between credibility and the need to protect whistle blowers; some major media screw-ups, such as the Chicago Tribune’s infamous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline incorrectly announcing the results of the US presidential election in 1948 (the editor thought it was in the bag, so gave the go ahead for the print run); a corridor on World War II, ‘the story of the century’; and a memorial to the tens of thousands of journalists, from Steve Biko to Bill Biggart who paid the ultimate price for their trade.

Like you, I’m now used to talk of how the industry is being transformed by social media, and it was interesting to be reminded that this is by no means the first such technological revolution. In fact, the media have been through enormous periods of change before, and they’ve adapted, survived and continue to thrive. Take for example:

  • 1440: invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg changes the way news is disseminated.
  • 1794: The invention of the telegraph heralds an era of fast-travelling news.
  • 1843: the steam-powered rotary press enables printing on a wider scale than ever before.
  • 1912: The sinking of the Titanic becomes the first news story to spread via radio.
  • 1960: The first ever televised presidential debate, watched by 70 million people, changes the course of the Kennedy-Nixon battle, as radio listeners judge Nixon to have won, while television viewers pick the more composed Kennedy.
  • 1981: the wedding of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer achieves record television viewership of 750 million and hails a new era of news for entertainment.
  • 2001: political blogs start to pose a genuine alternative to mainstream media.
  • 2010: social networks play a fundamental role in fuelling and co-ordinating the Arab Spring.

What else should be on our PR Bucket List? Please add your comments below.  

UK Agency Awards Winner 2016

About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


Read more


Enter your email address to receive our blog feed: