Students Arrive in D.C. for Free Spirit Journalism Conference

Free Spirit Class of 2016

The Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference class of 2016 gathers for a photo in front of the White House.

From June 17 to 22, the Newseum will host 51 of the nation’s top high school journalists for the 2017 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. The Free Spirit conference, an initiative of the Newseum 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, have been given an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the conference, and will each receive a $1,000 college scholarship. A complete list of the 2017 Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism Scholars is available at freespirit.org.

The Newseum Institute works with high school journalism teachers and news organizations throughout the country to recruit applicants and promote the program. Students are required to submit work samples, letters of reference, a 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 David Fahrenthold, a reporter at The Washington Post and 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner for National Reporting, about the importance of the press serving as a watchdog on government. The students will also visit the U.S. Capitol and the headquarters of USA TODAY, attend a taping of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and participate in a program on social media and the First Amendment with U.S. District Court Senior Judge Royce C. Lamberth.

Students will also attend the annual Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in The Media on the evening of June 19 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 Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post.

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