You know that triumphant feeling that sweeps from your brain to your toes when one of your enemies stumbles and falls into a mass of his own excrement? Such delight overwhelmed me yesterday as the Newseum—that gilded monument to journalistic vanity just a half-mile from the U.S. Capitol—hoisted its flag of surrender in the form of a press release. The Newseum owners can no longer afford to subsidize the place, they say, and are exploring plans to sell all or part of the building.
If the Newseum goes down, it will have deserved its death. Truth be told, it never deserved birth. Its owners, the Freedom Forum foundation, spent $450 million building its palace of journalism in 2008, making the Newseum among the most expensive museums then under construction at the time. Featuring a facade constructed from 50 tons of Tennessee marble, the seven-level structure has sought to commemorate the news business by stuffing its exhibits with 60,000-plus baubles and artifacts from the trade.
Newseum exhibits often resemble the detritus from a flea market. It has been or is home to Wonkette’s slippers, the Watergate break-in door, Tim Russert’s office, posters and reporters’ notebooks from the Ferguson protests, Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold’s legal pads, Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs’ eyeglasses (broken when candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed him), an Ai Weiwei self-portrait, props and costumes from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, a Boston Globe reporter’s running shoes, hundreds of press passes, Walt Mossberg’s gadgets, Bono’s jacket, and much more.