Yesterday was my last meeting as a trustee of the Newseum. Sad for a lot of reasons (an involvement that stretches back more than 20 years). I will still be on some kind of advisory board, but it won’t be the same as “running” the organization. As promised I will write something for this weekend.
But the reason why I wanted to post here: We should be mindful of the Newseum’s lessons. When the Freedom Forum began the newseum project it was a foundation with a billion dollars. The Newseum cost some $500 million and was not sustainable. The newspapers that could support such a venture were pretty much gone, the Freedom Forum (like all foundations) lost a bundle in the market crash; and the competition was free (Smithsonian). There was no long term path to be successful (at least in the current facility.) So it’s closing.
Lessons for us.
We have to be careful about overreach. We need to be certain that what we are building is sustainable over the long run, that means paying attention to the block by block construction.
Good, smart journalism is a building block.
Growing readership is a building block.
Financial systems (and process) is a building block.
Donor and member relations is a building block.
Underwriting is a building block.
Getting a TV program on the air and aired by a lot of stations is a building block.
One advantage that we have that the Newseum did not is that we are free. We need to leverage that asset as often as we can.