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February 9, 2018

KYLE SMITH: The Idolatry of Journalism.

Gaze upon the colossal edifice at 555 Pennsylvania Avenue in the national capital and you might get the impression that something really important is happening, or at least being recreated, inside. Pass through the Newseum’s doors, however, and your excitement may quickly be doused: It’s essentially a building full of stories you could easily find on the Internet, dull games, and large corporate displays of self-celebration. There’s a Bancroft Family Ethics Center (“kiosks allow you to tackle real-life reporting dilemmas and see how journalists and other visitors responded”), an NBC News Interactive Newsroom (“gives visitors a chance to play the role of a reporter or photographer”), and a New York Times Great Hall (“a continuous flow of news and free speech. Instant, breaking, historic news that is uncensored, diverse and free”). The privilege of strolling amid such gimmickry will cost you dearly — $25, in a city heaving with museums that cost nothing. The ticket price is higher than the Baseball Hall of Fame ($23) and the same as the (suggested) entry fee of America’s foremost repository of great painting and sculpture, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Attractions such as these, and the slippers once worn by Wonkette (I couldn’t remember her name either; upon investigation, it’s Ana Marie Cox) haven’t exactly delivered the throngs. The Newseum is mainly an event space, colorful background for canape-chewers and champagne-sippers whose custom earned the place twice as much ($18 million) last year as did admissions ($7.8 million). Overall, it lost more than $8 million last year and won’t last much longer. Its proprietors are looking for a way to sell off the building and move its contents to environs more suited to their importance — say, a fruit stand out in Gaithersburg.