You know an institution’s dead when…

Here in DC, the big event this weekend is the opening of the “Newseum“, a multimillion dollar shrine to American journalism — complete with high-priced condominiums — founded by the creator of USA Today. Discussing this at work yesterday with my editor, we came to the conclusion that it was fitting that there was finally a museum to journalism in this city. After all, like the dinosaurs, all that is left of the so-called “fourth estate” is the fossilized remains.

Then again, perhaps a comparison to mythical creatures is more apt, for like Cthulhu, it’s doubtful journalism as glorified by the mainstream press at places like the Newseum ever truly existed.

As usual, Dennis Perrin’s take on the establishment media’s trumpeting of itself is excellent:

The triangle is finally complete: journalism schools; journalism awards; and now, in time to quench the public thirst, a journalism museum in DC called, wittily, the Newseum.

Since American journos love to honor themselves while stroking each other, an official base celebrating the profession is long overdue. The one remaining task is to pour a few million gallons of warm tree sap over the building and let it harden into a nice, rich amber cage — preferably with Wolf Blitzer, Brit Hume, and the entire MSNBC roster trapped inside.

Why such harsh words when I’ve yet to set foot in the place? Surely, there are exhibits that’ll stir my admiration for the free press, yes? Well, based on the New York Times’ ga-ga review of the joint, I seriously doubt it. However, reporter Edward Rothstein does note that:

“[F]or all the celebration of the news industry, care is taken not to descend too deeply into puffery. Along with the many testimonials to journalistic courage and a memorial to journalists who lost their lives on the job, there are examples of distortions that mar the profession: the frauds perpetrated by a Pulitzer Prize winner or by a trusted reporter; the distorted reporting that led The Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., to acknowledge in 2004 that in the 1960s it had given the ‘front-page news’ of the civil rights movement ‘back-page coverage’; or even Peter Arnett’s 1991 broadcast on CNN that seemingly swallowed the Saddam Hussein government’s account of the United States having bombed a ‘baby-milk plant.'”

In other words, “distortions” that reinforce the larger, elite definition of “journalistic courage.” And given all of the outright lies and true press distortions about U.S. policy toward Iraq, the most significant example offered (according to the Times) is that fucking Peter Arnett story about the “baby-milk plant”? Wow. Accuracy In Media should get a royalty check from the Newseum for that.

Now, I’m doing my best to restrain from quoting the whole post, so make sure to read the rest.

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About Charles Davis

A writer and producer with whose work has aired on television and radio and been published by outlets such as Al Jazeera, The Intercept, The Nation and The New Republic.
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