It seemed one of God’s little jokes when the recent outpouring of tributes inspired by the deaths of the old-time newspapermen Herb Caen, Mike Royko, and Murray Kempton coincided so nearly with the opening of something called the “Newseum” across the street from the headquarters of USAToday in Arlington, Virginia. It was built, at a cost of fifty million dollars, by the Gannett-sponsored Freedom Forum and bears all the hallmarks of contemporary museum design—that is to say, a minimalist use of space, heavy emphasis on video and electronic gadgetry (children can make a tape of themselves pretending to be TV newsmen), and a well-stocked souvenir shop specializing in caps and T-shirts—one with the slogan: “Trust me. I’m a reporter.”

Luckily, God spared one of Caen’s and Royko’s few remaining...

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