Tales from the Newseum’s Broadcast Department

Dean’s Intern Hannah Sedgwick at Newseum

I can't get enough of this view. Or my official looking ID.

I can’t get enough of this view. Or my official looking ID.

I’ve been to my internship as a Research Associate in the Newseum’s broadcast department four times now and I still need to pinch myself every time I walk through the doors.

Since coming to DC, the Newseum has been my favorite District museum. The first time I visited the 250,000 sq.ft. facility with 7 floors of news exhibits I spent five and a half hours there. Just a disclaimer: I may be the biggest communication nerd on the planet. Anything involving the media, news, social media or technology makes my heart sing. Add in the history aspect that the Newseum prides itself on, and I’m swooning. The office I work in conveniently is filled with people who are just as passionate as me. Naturally, when I found out I would be interning at the Newseum I was thrilled.

After taking How the News Media Shapes History  during my sophomore year at AU, I was taken with the idea that journalists, new broadcasters, publishers, editors and heads of media organizations could have a profound effect on the way events play out. The Newseum is a tribute to just that.

The first day of my internship I walked in the side entrance (even just that was a cool experience) and was shown to the broadcast department offices on the third floor. You know on the third floor there is a glass wall exposing the main control room for the Newseum’s screens and exhibits? The broadcast offices are behind there. There are about 20 staff members who work in the office including the VP of Broadcasting, graphic designers, video editors, producers, production administrators and then there’s me. It’s an amazing feeling to be surrounded by such amazing and accomplished people. It’s an inspiration considering I’m still navigating the world of communication.

I was given a quick tour of the department and shown the offices, editing suites, master controls and studios that are used by Al Jazeera: America for filming.

I got settled at my desk and was briefed on the first project I’ll be working on about the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall that will be pitched to a few major television networks. It’s a surprisingly timely topic since the 25th anniversary of the fall of the wall is coming up in November. When I first sat down at my desk I had a slim working knowledge of the Berlin Wall. I was told to take the first day to learn as much as I could. I browsed the Newseum’s internal archives of photographs, interviews, past video clips and anything else I could find. It was a great opportunity to learn as much as I could about a single topic in a day.

As I was sitting on the third floor I thought to myself, “what am I doing looking at this stuff on a screen when there is an exhibit, original watch tower and 8 segments of the ACTUAL Berlin Wall sitting on the lower level?!” I went downstairs with my fancy Newseum badge and took in every bit of information at the exhibit. It’s incredible to be in the presence of the Wall that actually stood in Berlin and that I’ve done so much research on.

Later in the day, I got into the photography in the Newseum’s archives. I was curious about the Pulitzer prize winning photographs from 1989, the year the wall came down. I was sure I’d seen some pretty striking photographs involving the Wall and wouldn’t be surprised if they were Pulitzer prize winners. Again, I thought to myself, “what am I doing sitting at my desk when I could be downstairs at the Pulitzer Prize Photographs exhibit on the ground floor?” I went downstairs to the interactive search screen and found the 1989 winner, and as expected, it featured the fall of the Wall.

I always find it interesting to look at newspaper headlines from major events. I think they are very telling of the attitude of the time and it’s interesting to see what other events were happening on the same day. I remembered that the Newseum has an exhibit called “The Story of News” where they store front pages from many important events in history. I made my way to the exhibit to find the front pages from the day the wall went up and the day it came down.

By the end of the day I had been through a massive amount of the archives and knew so much about a topic I had a vague knowledge of just a few hours before. It really spiked my interest.

It was a great moment to realize that history was all around me just in this one building. It’s not just an office full of cubicles, it’s a building filled with relics of the past.

My first project was to go through original transcripts of archived interviews with journalists who were involved with the Wall when it was constructed in 1961 or when it came down in 1989. Reading the original transcripts and watching the unedited tapes was like glimpsing into the past. These journalists were fearless. And they are celebrities to me. They are the people whose names I see across legendary news headlines, in documentaries and in my text books. I went through about 15 transcripts to pull out the first person accounts I found to be the most interesting to hand off to the producers.

On another day interning, I learned how to use Avid and added captions to the “This Week in History” segments that run on the massive screen in the Newseum’s atrium. I don’t have much editing experience so it was a great learning opportunity for me. And I felt really cool sitting in the editing suite working on three screens at once and actually had some idea what all of the fancy controls did.

I’m looking forward to a great semester at the Newseum. It’s been more than I could have ever asked for so far and I’m excited for the opportunities and projects ahead.

Again, can't get enough of this view. How many people have full access to the Newseum and this great of a view?

Again, can’t get enough of this view. How many people have full access to the Newseum and this great of a view?