From June 16 to 21, the Newseum will host 51 of the nation’s top high school journalists, one from every state and the District of Columbia, for the 2018 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. The conference, an initiative of the Freedom Forum Institute, is an annual academic and scholarship program designed to inspire and equip some of the nation’s best and brightest students to pursue journalism and media careers. The program began in 1999 to honor Al Neuharth, the founder of USA TODAY, the Newseum and the Freedom Forum.
The rising high school seniors, chosen from hundreds of applicants, are given an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the conference, and will each receive a $1,000 college scholarship. A list of the 2018 Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism Scholars is available at freedomforuminstitute.org/freespirit2018.
The Freedom Forum Institute works with high school journalism teachers throughout the country to recruit applicants and promote the program. Students are required to submit work samples, letters of reference, a grade transcript and essays about their interest in journalism and their “free spirit” qualities.
Through presentations, meetings and experiences at the Newseum and elsewhere in Washington, the students will learn about the First Amendment as a cornerstone of democracy and the vital role of a free and responsible press. Students will study the three branches of government and how journalists cover them.
In addition to touring the Newseum, the students will hear from numerous media figures, including David Fahrenthold, a reporter at The Washington Post and 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner for national reporting, and Sara Ganim, a CNN correspondent and 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner for local news reporting. The students will also visit the U.S. Capitol and the headquarters of USA TODAY, attend a taping of NBC’s “Meet the Press” with host Chuck Todd at the NBC News studio, and participate in a First Amendment program with U.S. District Court Senior Judge Royce C. Lamberth.
Students will attend the presentation of the annual Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in The Media on the evening of June 18 at the Newseum. The award honors lifetime achievement in the media industry and is co-sponsored by Neuharth’s alma mater, the University of South Dakota. This year’s recipient is Lesley Visser, CBS News Sportscaster.