Newseum CEO departs after years of financial shortfalls at journalism museum

IndustriesAssociated Press

The chief executive of the Newseum and its parent organization the Freedom Forum has resigned from the museum of journalism and the First Amendment after three years at the helm of an organization struggling to cover its costs.

On Tuesday, James Duff announced plans to return to his previous post as chief administrative officer of the U.S. Courts under an appointment by Chief Justice John Roberts. When the chief justice calls, "it's hard to say no," he said. Duff had led the Newseum since 2011.

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For many years the Newseum was led by former journalists from Gannett Co. and USA Today. It will now return to their care. Former USA Today editor Peter Prichard has been named the Newseum's CEO. Jan Neuharth, daughter of Newseum founder Allen Neuharth, will be the Freedom Forum CEO.

"As our late founder Al Neuharth liked to say, we need to preserve the best and improve the rest," Prichard said. "I look forward to working with one of the best museum staffs in the world to do that."

Prichard said he is optimistic for the Newseum's future because attendance and fundraising are both on the rise. The museum had 800,000 visitors last year. Prichard previously served as president of the Newseum and Freedom Forum until 2009.

For years since building a new facility along Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue in 2008, the nonprofit Newseum has struggled to raise enough funds to cover its costs. Last year The Associated Press reviewed the Newseum's finances and found it was using the Freedom Forum endowment to cover the bulk of its expenses.

The CEO's compensation also struck some nonprofit experts as overly generous for an organization falling short on fundraising. Duff was paid $1.4 million in his first months on the job as deferred compensation for retirement. The retirement funds were to compensate for his loss of a full federal pension from the federal courts.

With his departure, Duff will not receive the full $1.4 million, Prichard said. Instead that amount will be prorated, though the exact payout was not revealed.

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