- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 3, 2001

Behind every dateline from Normandy, Vietnam or Kosovo has been a journalist writing or broadcasting under dangerous but exciting circumstances.

Being a war correspondent always has been a glamorous job, but "War Stories," a new exhibit at the Newseum through Sept. 30, shows how the profession can be a psychological, personal and physical challenge as well.

"Danger is, of course, part of it," says Don Ross, a Newseum senior editor. "Overall, this exhibit shows how important war is as a story."

The exhibit is full of artifacts such as the shovel Pulitzer Prize-winner Ernie Pyle used to dig trenches as he lived among the enlisted men during World War II, a bulletproof vest worn by CNN correspondent Peter Arnett during the Persian Gulf war and Winston Churchill´s handwritten documents describing his adventures as a correspondent during the Boer War.

To develop the exhibit, Newseum staff conducted nearly 80 hours of interviews with more than 40 war reporters and photographers. The exhibit examines four main themes with which war correspondents must contend, Mr. Ross says.

• Romance vs. reality A look at the glamorous face of war reporting contrasted with the realities, such as primitive living and working conditions and the danger of being kidnapped or killed.

• Propaganda vs. professionalism War correspondents always have faced the challenge of how to report the news accurately, even if it reflects badly on their country or the morale of its troops.

In this section of the exhibit, visitors learn about William Howard Russell, one of the first independent war correspondents.

Mr. Russell´s reports on the horrible conditions faced by British troops during the Crimean War helped force the resignation of the British prime minister.

• Secrecy vs. the story This section of the exhibit examines the balance between the public´s right to know and government efforts to withhold information.

During World War II, for example, Mr. Ross says, journalists almost always complied with censorship requests out of duty to their county. By the time of the war in Vietnam, journalists were rebuffing military censors. In this section, visitors can see the Pentagon Papers, detailing government efforts to mislead the public about the United States´ involvement in Southeast Asia. The publication of the Pentagon Papers (after a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1971) was a milestone for the rights of the press.

• Final draft vs. final view This section examines the immediacy and emotion of war reporting and how it can affect accuracy.

"Covering a war is tough," Mr. Ross says. "Sometimes the reporter is only seeing a small amount."

The wet-plate camera of Civil War photographer Mathew Brady and Joe Rosenthal´s shot of the U.S. flag being raised on Iwo Jima are on display.

Elsewhere in the Newseum, permanent educational and entertaining displays also are in place. One of the most popular is the Birthday Banner, located in the first-floor lobby. A visitor can enter his or her birth date into a computer that will display the news of that day in history. A printout can be purchased for $2.

There also is a display of how Hollywood movies from "The Front Page" to "Broadcast News" have portrayed the news business; a lineup of the day´s front pages from all 50 states and the District; a News History Gallery, which shows, through newspapers and broadcast clips, how important historical events have been reported; and a gallery of press passes journalists have donated from events such as the Olympics, presidential campaigns and the launch of space missions.

The highlight of a trip to the Newseum by far, though, is the interactive portion, located on the first floor. There, visitors can go in front of the camera and broadcast the news, sports or weather.

On a recent visit, Kelsey Fultz, 9, of Harlan, Ky., looked into the camera and gave being a news anchor her best shot.

"It really lets you know how hard newspeople work every night," Kelsey´s mother, Chris Fultz, said.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide