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A Place With the Inside Story on News

The capital's Newseum offers the public a chance to understand how the media work

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The video news wall in the capital's Newseum isn't supposed to speak with one voice - the whole idea of showing simultaneous video feeds from all over the world is to show visitors the great diversity in the world's sense of news.

But on Friday, Sept. 5, at 1 p.m. Eastern daylight time, only one thing counted as news: Queen Elizabeth II's live television broadcast on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Visitors to the world's first interactive museum of news broke away from playing news games on touch-screen computer terminals to listen to the queen's words. Such a live address was rare for the British monarch, but even more rare for the Newseum, for it marked the first time since the museum's April 18 opening that all nine panels on its 126-foot-long video news wall carried the same image and sound.

The moment signaled how quickly world reaction to the death of the popular princess was shaping up as a remarkable news event. And real-life news professionals soon found themselves both covering the event and defending against charges that the press had had a hand in creating it.

News photographers and paparazzi regularly reduced Diana to "tearful despair," her brother Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer, told mourners in London's Westminster Abbey on Sept. 6. "She talked endlessly of getting away from England, mainly because of the treatment she received at the hands of the newspapers," he said.

Such public concerns were a leading reason for developing an interactive news museum in the first place, say Newseum officials.

"We are not apologists for the news media, but we want people to understand this news product that they are consuming a little better," says Joe Urschel, the Newseum's executive director.

We know, he says, that what the public most resents about news coverage are intrusions on a person's privacy - such as photographers chasing people on motorcycles.

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