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Newseum’s Leader Resigns Amid Review of Finances

Newseum’s Leader Resigns Amid Review of Finances
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A display of newspaper front pages at the Newseum in November 2016. The museum has struggled financially.

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Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency

Jeffrey Herbst, the president and chief executive of the Newseum in Washington, resigned on Monday, as the museum’s board announced a full review of its finances.

The Newseum, which seeks to educate visitors about the press, the First Amendment and the history of communication, has long struggled to find its footing financially. The museum has had four rounds of staff reductions since 2009, according to The Washington Post, most recently in January. In large part, the Newseum gets support from the Freedom Forum, a nonprofit that focuses on First Amendment advocacy and education.

The Newseum’s struggles were draining the Freedom Forum’s coffers, said Jan Neuharth, chairwoman and chief executive of the foundation.

“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,” Ms. Neuharth said in a statement. “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.”

Mr. Herbst, who has been in his post since 2015, will be replaced during the review by a team of internal leaders: Ms. Neuharth; Peter Prichard, the Newseum’s chairman; and Scott Williams, its chief operating officer.

“Jeff Herbst is a strong leader whose accomplishments included raising the profile of the Newseum, increasing its fund-raising base, and contributing to important national debates on freedom and free expression,” Mr. Prichard said in a statement. “We’re grateful for his leadership.”

In their statement, the Freedom Forum’s leaders said the board might consider “a possible outright sale” of the large building in downtown Washington that has housed the museum since 2008. They also noted the difficulty of charging hefty admissions fees — $24.95 per ticket — in a city where Smithsonian museums are free.



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