WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Freedom Forum, the foundation that is the creator and primary benefactor of the Newseum, has launched a strategic review of the priorities it funds to fulfill its mission to champion the First Amendment as a cornerstone of democracy.
The goal of the review will be to ensure that the Freedom Forum will be able to continue and increase its efforts to support the First Amendment and educate people across the nation and around the world about the value of these bedrock freedoms.
As part of its review process, the Freedom Forum, the owner of the Newseum building, has retained counsel to review any and all available options regarding the building, including how the building and its various sections are utilized, full and partial sale/leaseback scenarios, joint ventures or additional condominium structures for shared use, and a possible outright sale of the landmark building located on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol. The Newseum will remain open during the strategic review process.
“The First Amendment is under assault as never before. We want to be sure our programs are aligned with our mission to be First Amendment advocates in this environment,” Jan Neuharth, chair and chief executive officer of Freedom Forum, said. “Our goal is to find ways to further advance the educational programs and advocacy opportunities of both the Freedom Forum and the Newseum, and to examine how we responsibly and financially sustain this effort.”
The Freedom Forum’s Board of Trustees voted to embark on a review around the following priority areas:
1. Ongoing financial prudence and foresight
While the Newseum attracts over 800,000 visitors a year—the most ever for a Washington, DC museum that charges an admission fee—it has been difficult to raise through admission fees what it costs to operate a world class museum in a city of free museums. Because of its highly technical, interactive experiences, the Newseum’s annual operating costs have always exceeded revenues, with the Freedom Forum funding the budget deficit.
Over the past 20 years, the Freedom Forum has committed more than $500 million to build and fund the Newseum, one of the largest gifts to any museum anywhere in the world. Despite these gifts, and the generous support of many individuals, foundations and companies, the Newseum has not been able to become self-sustaining.
“It has become obvious that the current model—where the Freedom Forum is the primary funder of the Newseum—cannot continue indefinitely at this level,” Neuharth said. “Left unchecked, this deficit spending rate would eventually drain the Freedom Forum’s entire endowment, and the annual cash drain prevents us from allocating any new capital to First Amendment programs that are at the heart of our educational mission.”
2. New leadership for the Newseum
While the Freedom Forum conducts its strategic review, the Newseum will be led by the executive team of Jan Neuharth, chair and CEO of the Freedom Forum; Peter Prichard, chair of the Newseum; and Scott Williams, chief operating officer of the Newseum.
Jeffrey Herbst, who led the Newseum for the past two years, has stepped down as president and CEO.
“Jeff Herbst is a strong leader whose accomplishments included raising the profile of the Newseum, increasing its fundraising base, and contributing to important national debates on freedom and free expression. We’re grateful for his leadership,” said Prichard.
3. Impactful First Amendment advocacy
“The Freedom Forum is as committed as ever to our educational mission—exercising, defending and promoting the First Amendment freedoms that are crucial to protecting our democratic way of life,” Neuharth said. “We want to know how the Freedom Forum and Newseum can expand our support and defense of all the freedoms of the First Amendment through innovative programs and an ever-increasing digital and social media presence. And we want to ensure that we can sustain these efforts for the long term.”
“There’s no better time to look at expanding our outreach,” Prichard said. “The Newseum now reaches more than one million students around the world with its media literacy programs in schools, designed to make young people savvier, better-educated consumers of news in this era of distrust of news and information. Through educational programs on digital platforms, the Newseum has an opportunity to help millions of media consumers worldwide become better educated about what they read and view and post.”
About the Freedom Forum
The Freedom Forum, based in Washington, is a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to promoting, explaining, celebrating and defending the First Amendment through education, conferences, programs and scholarships. The Freedom Forum was established July 4, 1991, under the direction of founder Al Neuharth, as successor to a foundation started in 1935 by newspaper publisher Frank E. Gannett. The Freedom Forum is not affiliated with the Gannett Co. Its work is supported by income from an endowment of diversified assets.