Washington -- Journalism junkies and media mavens coming to the nation's capital for The Cable Show have plenty of opportunities to see where the news is — and was — made.
They can also dine where politics and media often meet, although there’s no guarantee of a celebrity “sighting” as you peek above your menu to scan the dining room or bar.
Among Washington’s most iconic televised images is the White House correspondent uttering a profound stand-up report in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Unless you have a proper press pass, the best you can do is stand at the West Gate (between the Old Executive Office Building and the West Wing on Pennsylvania Ave., near 17th Street NW) and gaze through the tall iron fence.
You’ll see a cluster of tall tents and lean-to shanties, each sheltering a news staff between takes. It’s hard to tell from that vantage point which network’s correspondents may pop out to record or report on the latest Presidential goings-on.
The best time for sightings here is during the morning news hours and late afternoon, just before or during the dinner-time newscasts.
But remember: news can happen at any time!
Similarly, on Capitol Hill, the tiny “Senate Triangle” near Constitution Ave. and First Street NE is where TV crews often stand to get that authoritative view with the Capitol dome over the shoulder. Again, if you want to watch TV reporters in action (so to speak), timing is everything.
Since these are the final weeks of the Supreme Court’s session, several important end-of-term decisions may be handed down. Check the calendar at supremecourt.gov, or head over to First Street NE (across from the Capitol) to watch the reporters on the Court’s steep steps wax seriously about the rulings.
STARVING FOR NEWS
With news bureaus scattered around Washington, there is no longer a single watering hole that attracts media types. The National Press Club at the National Press Building (14th and F Streets NW) has recently been attracting younger journalists. It hosts a variety of news conferences and special events, which may draw national reporters.
Depending on expense-account authorizations, you’re more likely to encounter newsmakers and the scribes who cover them at D.C.’s growing array of dining spots. Lots of the young new media-istas hang out at the bars along 9th Street NW (near the Convention Center), on 14th Street NW and along U Street NW.
For example, Churchkey offers bar food and, allegedly, 555 beers with its companion (in the same building) Birch & Barley restaurant. (1337 14th St. NW; www.churchkeydc.com). A new French restaurant, Le Diplomate, features “en plein air” dining in its courtyard (1601 14th St. NW; www.lediplomatedc.com).
Nearby, Posto (the “little sister” of the
venue) is a frequent hangout for reporters, broadcasters and politicos (1515 14th Street NW; www.postodc.com).
Close to Capitol Hill, Johnny’s Half Shell (400 N. Capitol St. NW; www.johnnyshalfshell.net) attracts diners from C-SPAN (which is in the same building) and from the CNN and Fox News Washington bureaus, which are a short distance away on the other side of Union Station. You’ll often see high rollers at Charlie Palmer Steak (101 Constitution Ave. NW; http://www.charliepalmer.com/Properties/CPSteak/DC).
In the opposite quadrant, on the southeast side of Capitol Hill (basically behind the Library of Congress) is a strip of drinking-and-dining joints, many of them recently gentrified, including the historic political hangout the Hawk & Dove (329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; www.hawkndovedc.com), which was revitalized in the past year (translation: cleaned up and priced up) but is still a legitimate newsy hangout.
For Cable Show convention-goers who want to sample some of Washington’s other media-driven sights and sites, there are endless distractions. Not far from the Convention Center is the Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; http://www.newseum.org), which is currently commemorating President Kennedy — the first true television politician — on the 50th anniversary of his death. The exhibits include a new original documentary A Thousand Days, about Kennedy’s presidency, family life and death. The Newseum is loaded with interactive exhibits and historic mementoes.
If you’re invited to the NCTA Chairman’s Reception (or even if you’re not) head over to the Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and F Streets NW). It is currently exhibiting a special showcase of the works of “Nam June Paik: Global Visionary.”
Paik was a revolutionary art master who helped make video into an art form, and this temporary exhibit includes eclectic video art that Paik created in a period that coincided with cable’s own growth spurt in the ’70s through ‘90s. This special exhibit supplements the museum’s permanent Paik artworks, notably the landmark “Electronic Superhighway” (1995) — created just about the time that cable’s John Malone and/or Vice President Al Gore coined the “info superhighway” mantra. The museum is open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For geeks seeking inspiration, the D.C. area offers a number of offbeat options. There’s the popular International Spy Museum (800 F St. NW; www.spymuseum.org), a popular tourist attraction. In addition to its interactive and historic exhibits, the pricey admission ticket gets you into the current special exhibit, “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of [James] Bond Villains.” It’s almost better than a Bond-a-thon binge on a cable network.
For a more authentic cyber-spying experience, or for anyone who just wants to get close to the “Puzzle Palace” at the National Security Agency (or NSA, aka “No Such Agency”), stop into the National Cryptological Museum (8290 Colony Seven Rd., Annapolis Junction, Md., http://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic_heritage/museum). It’s about halfway between Baltimore and Washington, with weekday hours (a possible stop if you’re driving north after the Cable Show).
The museum features early cryptology dating back to the 16th century and features code tools dating from the Revolutionary War through modern times, including the famed “Enigma” machine.
Not far away is the relatively new National Electronics Museum, (1745 W. Nursery Rd., Linthicum, Md., www.nationalelectronicsmuseum.org), which focuses on defense electronics but continually adds consumer and telecom exhibits. It’s housed in an old Northrop Grumman warehouse (previously a Westinghouse building) on the edge of Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Its Communications Gallery showcases devices from telegraphs to telephones and, eventually, to wireless pictures, television and digital communications.
These arcane attractions supplement the standard D.C. tourism venues — which are as diverse and malleable as the journalism and media businesses themselves.
Wear comfortable shoes. )