Newseum In Need of a New Home

by Katherine Sperduto ’19

Washington D.C. houses important buildings such as the White House and Supreme Court, significant monuments, and world-renowned museums. However, the Newseum soon will no longer have a place in the nation’s capital.

The Newseum promotes the First Amendment freedom of speech and press while tracing the evolution of communication. It hosts many interactive exhibits where visitors can voice their opinions through taking polls, view the up-to-date front pages of newspapers from around the globe, and pay tribute to journalists who have died while reporting news. Located on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Newseum will be moving out of its location after the $372.5 million deal with Johns Hopkins University to purchase this building was made final earlier this year.

The Newseum was created by The Freedom Forum, established by USA Today founder Al Neuharth, and has been operating in the D.C. location since 2008. Even though it draws tens of thousands of visitors a year, it found itself in financial trouble ever since moving to the location in 2008 from its previous location in Arlington, Virginia. The Newseum charges admission fees while being surrounded by neighboring museums that offer free admission. The Newseum now finds itself in $300 million of debt because of its heavy reliance on one donor, The Freedom Forum, which contributed over $22.5 million in 2016. Jan Neuharth, the Freedom Forum’s chief executive, stated in August that the Freedom Forum can no longer support the Newseum, as the foundation has poured more than $272 million into the Newseum since 2008.

The Freedom Forum originally paid $100 million down for the space on Pennsylvania Avenue and in order to make this real estate deal work, the organization had to either purchase the building in Washington or continue to maintain its network of overseas offices, which support democratic ideals. The foundation decided to eliminate its overseas offices, but that did not put a big enough dent in the amount of money needed to afford the space in DC.

This downfall of the Newseum is not a shock to many, but it hits especially hard in the midst of the current political climate. Because the media has been labeled the “true enemy of the people” by President Donald Trump in a tweet from February 2017 and the increase of technology has made it difficult for businesses in the journalism field to earn revenue, the media is under intense pressure.

The Newseum will remain open until January of 2020, but after that, Johns Hopkins University will take over. The University plans to use the space to expand and consolidate its presence in the nation’s capital. Hopkins’ new home will allow the University to combine its D.C. operations—currently spread across four buildings on Massachusetts Avenue—into one space. “Hopkins D.C.” will be anchored by the University’s School of Advanced International Studies. The new building will also provide a forum for new events, internships, and other programming.