Mar 11, 2009


2009 Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism Scholars Announced

WASHINGTON, D.C. — One hundred two high school students from across the United States who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism and have qualities of “free spirit” have been selected to participate in the annual Al Neuharth Free Spirit Scholarship and Journalism Conference program March 14–19.

Two top students each will receive a $10,000 college scholarship. The other 100 students will receive $1,000 scholarships each. The top winners will be announced at a Free Spirit Awards ceremony at the Newseum on Wednesday, March 18.

Sixty-three U.S. newspapers joined the Freedom Forum in soliciting applications from high school seniors. Applicants were required to provide samples of their journalistic work and write an essay on free spirit. Scholarship winners — one female and one male from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia — were selected through a competitive process.

“These students have such amazing spirit and enthusiasm,” Neuharth said. “I truly believe that if they continue to dream, dare and do, they can accomplish anything.”

The scholarship winners will be brought to Washington to receive their awards and participate in a journalism conference. During the conference, the scholars will tour several media organizations and join in sessions led by noted broadcast and print journalists and newsmakers, including moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press” David Gregory, USA TODAY correspondent Rick Jervis and Orage Quarles III, president and publisher of The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.

The Al Neuharth Free Spirit Awards recognize top high school journalism seniors who are free spirits. It was established by the Freedom Forum to honor Al Neuharth, the founder of the Freedom Forum and USA TODAY. The scholarships and conference program are designed to assist and inspire students who are pursuing journalism careers. The Close Up Foundation assists the Freedom Forum in administering the program.

“The Free Spirit Conference is an educational opportunity for all of us,” said Charles L. Overby, chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum, Newseum and Diversity Institute. “These bright scholars get learning opportunities with top media professionals, and their drive and enthusiasm inspire us in turn.”

The Al Neuharth Free Spirit Award is also given at the conference. The 2009 Free Spirit Award will be given posthumously to Tim Russert, veteran NBC News correspondent and long-time host of “Meet the Press,” who died in 2008. Russert’s wife, Maureen Orth, and his son, Luke Russert, will accept the award on his behalf.

Each year the Freedom Forum honors one or more individuals for accomplishments that have stirred the public’s hearts and souls by demonstrating the human capacity to dream, dare, do. A free spirit can be a risk-taker, a visionary, an innovator, an entrepreneur or a courageous achiever who accomplishes great things beyond his or her normal circumstances. Past Free Spirit honorees include Aung San Suu Kyi, Greg Mortenson, Bob Schieffer, Brian Lamb, Eileen Collins and Cathie Black.

The Freedom Forum, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people. The foundation focuses on three priorities: the Newseum, the First Amendment and newsroom diversity.

The Freedom Forum is the main funder of the operations of the Newseum, an interactive museum of news in Washington, D.C.; the First Amendment Center; and the Diversity Institute. The First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute are housed in the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. The First Amendment Center also has offices in Washington and the Diversity Institute has offices and programs at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

The Freedom Forum was established in 1991 under the direction of Founder Al Neuharth as successor to a foundation started in 1935 by newspaper publisher Frank E. Gannett. The Freedom Forum is not affiliated with Gannett Co. Its work is supported by income from an endowment of diversified assets.

NOTE TO EDITORS: A complete list of the 102 students is available at For additional information about the Free Spirit Scholarship and Conference program, please contact the Freedom Forum Communications Department (202/292-6313).

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