Howie Kurtz's Multi-Platform Newseum Story

Howard Kurtz is used to pulling double-duty covering stories as media reporter for the Washington Post and as host of "Reliable Sources" Sunday mornings on CNN, but rarely does he get the chance to use his program to provide a multi-media counterpart to the stories he reports. Yesterday, though, he did in a segment on Washington's new Newseum that served as a visual counterpoint to Sunday's Washington Post article on the same subject.

Both the video and the print segments hit on most of the same features, with a few differences — the print version hits on some of the more literary features,the video version shows Howie waving from a fake news standup at the White House and, amusingly, aping Tim Russert's opening to "Meet The Press" (you know, that other Sunday morning show, the one that clobbers "Reliable Sources" in the ratings). Both feature interviews with Charles Overby, chief executive of the Freedom Forum, which built the Newseum. Oddly, you get more of a sense of the soaring, sweeping space of the place in the piece than you actually do in the clip (I can say that with some authority because I got a sneak peek of the Newseum last week on an excursion to see the new studio of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," which will be located on the Newseum's third floor. More on that visit to come.)

It's rare to see Kurtz do a piece outside the studio for his show, save for the odd taped sit-down with newsies (think Tom Brokaw, Robin Roberts, Charlie Gison and, most recently, Keith Olbermann) — but it's not rare to hear him lament coverage for being too uncritical of the media, and he does the same here in both print and vid (he also laments the steep $20 entrance fee). Jon Friedman thinks so, too, while other critics just think its sort of sad to lavish that kind of attention on a business that may well be rendered obsolete all too soon.

With respect, I disagree with them all. Should an art museum give equal space to famous forgeries? The Newseum seems to me to be about history, and how journalists provide that crucial first draft of it. The chunk of the Berlin wall, that wall of Sept. 11th front pages, vintage newsreel footage from history, the memorial wall to those who have died in the course of duty — seems to me that, on balance, the history of the profession really is relevant, and important, and necessary for a larger understanding how the jumble of raw facts that emerge from daily events are collected and put in context and understood. My pass through the Newseum last week was brief so I didn't get to experience what Kurtz did, but I did notice words engraved into stone mounted on a wall on the ground floor: "The Free Press is a Cornerstone of Democracy." Not bad, considering the Newseum's view of the Capitol on one side and the White House up Pennsylvania Avenue on the other. But it's what's written below that seals it: "The Free Press, At Its Best, Reveals The Truth." Seems pretty worthy of a museum to me.