The streets of D.C. are buzzing. Cameras and phones are snapping shots left and right. I’ve seen license plates from around ten to 15 different states. All major buildings, balconies, and light posts are lined with red, white, and blue. Tomorrow, we will all watch the 44th president of the United States be inaugurated for his second term in office. More on this to come, as I presume it will be a highlight from all I have witnessed thus far, but I find my visit today to the Newseum highly appropriate timing in light of tomorrow’s events.
The Newseum is a museum dedicated entirely to news and mass media history, located on Pennsylvania Avenue, just up from the Capitol. It is fairly new, just opened in 2007, so despite the strong recommendations of my professor and other media figures we’ve spoken to, I went in with few expectations. I will openly admit my nerd status when it comes to history, and being a communication major, particularly media history. Needless to say, I found my element at the Newseum.
Seeing artifacts, primary sources, and reading museum blurbs are interesting, but I think it was the collaboration of all of it that really got me. Again, I’m a nerd, so I actually do think about these things, but I thought about the story of media and it’s impact upon my life in a different way than I ever had. I realize how significantly my life has been shaped by media. So many memories revolve around current events, television, images, the internet, social media, or whatever it may be. Posted in the Newseum is publisher Philip Graham’s quote, “journalism is the first rough draft of history.” I realized as I walked through the museum today that though the emphasis was news and media in the broader scope of history, what news really does is just tell the story of history. Thanks to our First Amendment and democratic values, American media has been shaping history for centuries in this country in a way unlike the world has ever seen.
Then I remember that I am a part of this story. Four years ago I was checked out of school by my parents to go sit on the couch in my Salt Lake City home to watch President Obama be inaugurated the first time. The reason I got to skip school to watch TV? Because I was told and I knew that I’d be witnessing history, thanks to media of course. Tomorrow I will be standing on Pennsylvania Avenue somewhere watching the same thing in person, which I’m only beginning to see is an iconic and bustling media event. I’ve seen the cameras and the lights being set up. Then there are the ample press passes and the frenzied reporters looking for interviews. What these journalists may or may not know is the huge part they are playing in history. The 57th presidential inauguration will be a headline on Tuesday. Then headlines, photos, stories, and interviews will be filed away, compiled, lost, edited, recovered, and so on. Until they all become history.