ESSAY: The House That Rupert Built
American News Project takes a humorous look at the grand achievement of the Newseum – a multi-million dollar shrine to the news industry brought to you by today’s corporate media titans. Despite all the money, the curators might have failed on one key question: What is news?
VOICEOVER: When the newseum opened up in Washington, DC, this year, a lot of journalists got excited. I was one of them. Finally, a museum for news. That excitement lasted about a day.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE COLBERT REPORT: If I have one quibble folks, it’s with your name. Museum doesn’t quite capture what I think of as the proper place to celebrate the state of American journalism. Instead, I’d go with tonight’s word—Newsoleum! Joke’s on you, journalists.
VOICEOVER: The news industry’s making more money now than it ever has in history. The shock-and-awe opening ceremony made that crystal clear, as does the newseum’s $450 million price tag. But it’s hard to learn about a free press when the price of admission is $20. Any journalist working today is painfully aware of corporate influence over the news, that sensory overload can’t mask a lack of substance, that even with all this money, we can’t escape an overwhelming sense of decay. Newspapers are losing readers. News is more and more about entertainment and opinion. And seven corporations control virtually all mass media in the US. The newseum raised $52 million from major media companies to help get its doors open; thus it has halls like the Bloomberg Internet, TV, and Radio Gallery, the Cox Enterprises First Amendment Gallery, and the NBC News Interactive News Room, where aspiring reporters can demonstrate what it takes to make the news these days.
INTERVIEWER: I’m just curious: what do you guys think it takes to be a good TV news reporter?
MUSEUM VISITOR 1: You have to be not scared of a camera. I’m not scared.
MUSEUM VISITOR 2: Personality.
MUSEUM VISITOR 1: Definitely.
RUPERT MURDOCH, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, NEWS CORPORATION: Inside this building, there are many wonderful exhibits. But I hope you will forgive me if I am partial to the news history gallery sponsored by our company.
VOICEOVER: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation funded the news history gallery. That makes sense. After all, Murdoch will likely be writing most of journalism history from this point forward.
SHEPARD SMITH, PRESENTER, FOX NEWS: Thanks, Ken. I’m Shepard Smith from the Fox News channel. You might not know that Kent Brockman and I both work for the same company, News Corporation. In 1996, News Corp once again proved the pundits wrong by creating Fox News, a dynamic alternative in 24-hour cable news.
VOICEOVER: The digital newsroom is the smallest in the museum. You see, the newseum devotes most of its real estate commemorating the past and validating the present, leaving little room left for imagining the future. Spend a day in the museum, and you may walk away with the disturbing notion news is product. Spend a moment contemplating the exterior, and you’ll probably notice the First Amendment dwarfed by a large corporate structure behind it.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.