Newseum CEO steps down as it considers selling, closing
The facility, which drew 800,000 visitors last year, can’t compete with free Smithsonian museums
Newseum may close.
The financially struggling news museum in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday its CEO stepped down, and it’s considering selling the building or moving to a new location because of insufficient visitor traffic.
Other options being considered by the Freedom Forum, the foundation that owns the building, are selling and leasing the building back, forming partnerships or developing condominiums for shared use.
The foundation’s “strategic review” doesn’t immediately affect Newseum’s programs for visitors, it said.
Located on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol, Newseum sits on a prime downtown location steps away from Smithsonian museums and other tourist attractions, such as Chinatown.
Newseum drew more than
800,000 visitors in 2016. But competing with free Smithsonian museums for visitors’ time and attention, it hasn’t been able to independently fund its operations through visitors’ fees and has had to rely on the foundation to narrow the deficit.
The museum’s revenue, which is reported separately, was $59.3 million in 2015, the last year it filed the figure with the Internal Revenue Service. Expenses totaled $61.9 million.
“It has been difficult to raise through admission fees what it costs to operate a world-class museum in a city of free museums,” Newseum said in a statement. “Because of its highly technical, interactive experiences, the Newseum’s annual operating costs have always exceeded revenues.”
The Freedom Forum said it has spent more than $500 million to build and fund the Newseum.
The foundation reported $13.3 million in revenue in 2015. It had
$42.3 million in total expenses. The Freedom Forum was formed in 1991 by the late Al Neuharth as successor to a foundation started in 1935 by newspaper publisher Frank Gannett, who started a media company under his name. Neuharth was also CEO of Gannett when the company started publishing USA TODAY. Gannett has since spun off its newspaper and online news business and renamed itself Tegna. The newspaper and online news business, which has taken the name of Gannett, owns USA TODAY and 109 local news properties.
Jeffrey Herbst, who was Newseum’s CEO for the past two years, stepped down Monday.
The Newseum is on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol.