Though the Newseum—D.C.’s living monument to the history, culture, and legacy of journalism and media—has struggled to be kind of a big deal, the splashy fall show it announced today, “Anchorman: The Exhibit,” seems like an attempt to change that.
On Nov. 14, with the backing of Paramount Pictures, the museum will mount an exhibit dedicated to the 2004 comedy about an inept 1970s San Diego TV news team. Tied to the Dec. 20 release of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, the exhibit plans to show costumes worn by Channel 4’s bumbling evening news crew, original props from the film—-including Ron’s infamous “yazz” flute—-and a recreated KVWN-TV anchor desk.
That’s cool I guess, but isn’t it sad that the Newseum has to resort to exhibiting fake news in order to lure people through its doors? Is actual news not exciting enough anymore?
In a phone call, the Newseum’s Vice President of Exhibits and Programs Cathy Trost says the Newseum prides itself on telling stories of great news anchors who “represent the authority and credibility of television news.” The Anchorman exhibit, Trost says, “is a great way to show how Hollywood and popular culture has had fun with the topic.” She says that the show will “tie into the history of local TV news and feature actual objects from eyewitness news teams and action news teams from the 1970s,” with “context about how the format evolved during that time.”
Trost adds that while “Anchorman: The Exhibit” is meant to be funny, it will also address the reality of newsrooms of yesteryear: “Sexism, ratings wars, and polyester leisure suits were all part of the real history of TV news,” Trost says, “so the exhibit will explore the reality behind the humor of Anchorman.”
The Newseum is no stranger to satire—-its collection includes items from satirical newspaper The Onion as well as Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update”—-but I’m curious about the whiplash effect potentially wrought by seeing silly costumes from a Will Ferrell movie next to artifacts from, say, news coverage of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Hurricane Katrina, or the 9/11 terror attacks.
Trost doesn’t agree that “Anchorman: The Exhibit” strays from the Newseum’s serious mission statement to archive the (real) news industry. “We just recently installed two powerful photographs of the conflict in Syria, which won Pulitzer prizes this year,” she says. “We don’t shy away from the reality of journalism, but having some fun and giving visitors a laugh is good, too.”
Due to an editing error, the original version of this post misspelled the name of the Newseum’s vice president of exhibits and programs. Her name is Cathy Trost, not Prost.