The latest round of layoffs suggest the finances of the journalism museum remain shaky, as they have ever since it moved from a small space in Arlington to a gigantic building on Pennsylvania Avenue in the District. Herbst declined to specify what positions were cut, how many were full-time and how much savings would be realized.
“I’d rather not go into the specifics. We did this strategically in order to make sure we have resources. We want to make sure we are on firm financial footing,” Herbst said. “We are accelerating our efforts to raise money … and taking the necessary steps to make sure our finances are sound.”
Dedicated to promoting and defending the First Amendment, the Newseum has had four previous rounds of staff reductions since 2009, the most recent in 2013. It continues to shrink annual expenses, according to tax filings. In 2015, total expenses were $61.9 million, slightly higher than 2014 but significantly lower than $67 million in 2013.
The Freedom Forum, formerly known as the Gannett Foundation and the museum’s major benefactor, contributed $21.3 million in 2015, up from 2014’s $20.1 million. Annual deficits continue, although 2015’s $2.5 million shortfall was half the prior year’s.
Herbst declined to share more recent information about the museum’s finances. “In terms of revenue and expenditures, I can’t make one general observation,” he said. “Where I’m headed is looking forward, not only to what we want to do but what we think the nation is calling for.”
Herbst said the museum’s mission is more critical than ever, citing issues about the stability of the news industry and debates about freedom of expression and religious freedom. He said the organization has almost doubled the size of its education programs, which now reach almost 6 million schoolchildren around the globe.
In addition, the Newseum hosted some 2,000 individuals at its inauguration event last week, a program that sold out within 48 hours of the $350 tickets going on sale. And he said thousands of participants at the Women’s March on Saturday chanted “power to the press” as they passed the museum.