Head’s Blog: Behind the Scenes at the Newseum

19 September 2019

The victory of the BJP in elections in Rajasthan, plans for constitutional reform in Japan, the US Supreme Court’s deliberations on asylum claims from Central American migrants and Renée Zellweger’s cinematic homage to Judy Garland – what do these things have in common?

The answer is that they were all featured stories on the front pages of the newspapers in our very own Newseum on a single day last week. Inspired by the venue of the same name in Washington DC, which opened in 1997 as a showcase for journalism past and present, the OHS Newseum is curated for us by our Librarians, Ms Stott and Mrs Didcock.

Ever-changing and always bang up-to-date, it draws the gaze of many a passer-by; some are looking for a broader perspective on the news of the day, others are simply following the lure of an arresting image or headline on their way to lunch. Whatever the motivation, to stop and browse through the featured stories is to gain a snapshot of the concerns of the world and a reminder that there is much more to global news than the events within the narrow confines of our shores (tumultuous those these are just now).

The recent announcement by Washington’s Newseum that it has been forced to close as a result of financial pressures seems an all-too-apt metaphor for the current parlous state of our news media and the concept of a free press per se. All the more reason, then, to celebrate our own Newseum. Presenting, as it does, a plurality of voices, it exposes readers to a range of viewpoints and encourages an atmosphere of calm and considered debate to combat the shrill and shallow nature of much political discourse these days. Independence of mind comes from a process of study, thought, discussion, debate, challenge and reflection. It is a slow burn, requiring a steady supply of suitable raw material as kindling and fuel. The Newseum provides just such fuel on a daily basis.

Our Newseum is a powerful weapon in the armoury of the young women in school today, encouraging an atmosphere of calm and considered debate to combat the shrill and shallow nature of much political discourse these days.

In my start-of-term Assembly, I shared with girls and colleagues a definition of education (from Robert Frost) that I think particularly apt in this context – ‘education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing either your temper or your self-confidence.’ In considering the times we are living in, when reasoned public debate is in retreat (in favour of a very public losing of tempers and crises of confidence), our Newseum is a powerful weapon in the armoury for the young women in school today, who are preparing to become the leaders and active citizens of tomorrow.

Dr Helen Stringer, 2019

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