On its nineteenth stop on a tour of America, the NewsCapade has parked its two 18 wheelers with exhibition space at the Inner Harbor’s Rash Field for the weekend and managed to run over the Sun’s editor, at least metaphorically.
Good reporting dictates a pithy explanation of the event, but this exhibition is a beast genetically engineered from journalism and kiddy entertainment: two creatures not known to commingle willingly in the wild.
“The largest self-contained exhibit!” reads its promotional literature. Ostensibly, the NewsCapade lets children play reporter. The tykes can face the television camera and pretend to be a television reporter in front of the White House, or can play a video game in which one tries to get the facts.
The program’s main selling point its sponsor and host Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today and former chairman and CEO of the newspaper conglomerate Gannett, a point likely to be lost on the tykes or anyone outside of the newspaper junkies.
NewsCapade is that much-hyped “edutainment.” According to its director (and former Gannet editor) Jack Marsh, the traveling exhibit is intended to heighten the awareness of the role of journalists in society and to combat the negative image of journalism in the U.S. bandied about by Neuharth and Marsh on Thursday evening was a survey that showed journalists are ranked lower than car salesmen in trustworthiness.
The NewsCapade is an offshoot from Neuharth’s Newseum in Arlington, VA, an interactive museum of journalism.
Its endeavor to be the apologist for the news business is notable, but its effect was questionable during a recent visit. Only five children and eight adults were at the exhibit, even with a “Best Bet” plug in the Baltimore Sun’s Live section for that day. The kids took turns standing in front of the cameras and giggled (what were they to report on: Monica? Ethnic Cleansing? The Budget Wars?), none touched the other interactive exhibits, which were angled upwards and placed too high up for them to see.
Neuharth and Marsh were joined by Sun editor and senior vice president John Carroll for a session of question-and-answer. Only three children were present; the rest of the nineteen people attending were an elderly couple, six tourists, with men in business suits filling up the majority of seats (did someone say ringers?). And so the evening metamorphosized into the press covering the press talking about a traveling road show dedicated to the press.
Carroll addressed questions
bout Monday’s protest in front of the Sun’s headquarters at 501 N. Calvert Street. Several prominent African American ministers have decried the Sun’s coverage of the mayoral race as racially biased.
Unfortunately, Carroll didn’t get the facts right, which at an event tailored to give the masses confidence in the news media is a tragedy. We can only hope it was inadvertent.
He said only forty to fifty people picketed the Sun, and that it was ”organized by the [the mayoral candidate Lawrence] Bell campaign to discredit us and boost the Bell campaign.” Neither statement is true. Over sixty people attended the protest, not including the gaggle of journalists. The rally was organized by Reverend John Wright and supported by Mary Conaway, another mayoral candidate. This reporter was going to ask whether Mr. Carroll actually thought Conaway would help organize a rally for Bell, but this reporter thought better of it.
After all, there were children present.