Five years after moving from Rosslyn to Pennsylvania Avenue, the Newseum has attracted millions of visitors. But despite all of these visitors, the museum has struggled financially, relying heavily on a shrinking endowment to cover its operational costs.
As first reported by the Associated Press, public financial documents show revenue falling short of operating costs from 2009 through 2011. The Newseum’s parent organization – the Freedom Forum – has relied on its endowment, which dropped in value from $600 million to $373 million at the end of 2011.
Now, to cut down on costs, the Newseum has imposed four rounds of staff layoffs since 2008 – the most recent one happened in January. Employee retirement contributions have also been slashed.
Museums and tourism nationwide have been impacted by the recession, but according to the Newseum’s 2011 990 form, its new CEO James Duff was paid $1.6 million in salary, including a bonus and deferred retirement compensation.
Compare that to Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough, who oversees all of the institution’s museums and only made $556,000 in 2011.
“If they're having trouble then they don’t need to pay those CEOs fabulous prices like that,” says tourist Pat Wolfe.
Unlike many free museums nearby on the National Mall, the Newseum has an admission fee of $22 for adults – and many tourists are willing to pay up.
“You come to Washington, it's all free,” says tourist Ken Glasgow. “We paid for it, it's ours, let's go see it. But this is worth the price of admission. We've been in here for hours.”
Every year, the Newseum draws more and more visitors, including more than 800,000 in 2012. But, it’s still not enough to cover costs. In 2011, the museum recorded a loss of $7.6 million.
Both the Newseum and Freedom Forum officials declined to comment on this story or provide any financial details from 2012. But according to the Associated Press, CEO James Duff states that the museum is “not in financial trouble,” and that it is working on “tightening up on expenditures and additional fundraising initiatives.”