Fifty-one aspiring journalists are beginning to arrive in the nation’s capital to participate in the annual Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference, an extraordinary five-day experience hosted by the Newseum Institute in Washington, D.C., June 21-26. The program annually awards $1,000 college scholarships to rising high school seniors who are interested in journalism careers and who demonstrate qualities of “free spirit.”
While at the conference, the scholars get involved in a variety of learning experiences at the Newseum and elsewhere in Washington, focusing on the three branches of government and how journalists cover them. The Free Spirits, who come to the conference from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, will visit the USA Today newsroom, the United States District Court, a taping of “Meet the Press” hosted by David Gregory, and also have the opportunity to be tourists and see the sights around D.C.
Students also will participate in panel discussions with working journalists from, among others, CNN, The Washington Post and Time magazine, as well as influential leaders from the civil rights movement, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton. A special conference program Monday, June 23, honors PBS “NewsHour” anchor Gwen Ifill with the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Journalism. The civil rights and Neuharth Award programs will be live streamed on newseum.org, as will a program revealing this year’s State of the First Amendment survey results.
The Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference, begun in 1999, honors Al Neuharth, the founder of the Freedom Forum, Newseum and USA Today. Many alumni of the program have gone on to notable and successful journalism careers and have returned to participate in this year’s conference, including Andrew Springer, senior editor of social media for ABC News; Katie Aberbach, editor at culture magazine; and Devna Shukla, editorial producer for CNN’s hallmark program, “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Follow the conference on Twitter: #FreeSpirit14