I dreamed, dared, and did in America’s capital

Grace Carr, Editor In Chief

Dream, dare, and do; this was the motto of journalist Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today and the Freedom Forum Institute. Neuharth was known for changing the way America receives its news by creating the first nationwide newspaper. His goal was to encourage a free press, free speech, and free spirit. After his passing, young student journalists still have the opportunity to learn more about these guiding principles in America’s capital.

I was selected to represent the State of Montana at the 2019 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference in Washington, D.C. Every year, the Freedom Forum Institute and Newseum select 51 rising seniors from each state and the District of Columbia to attend an all-expenses-paid journalism conference in June. 

Throughout the course of seven days, we attended a variety of panels and seminars led by world-renowned journalists. They discussed how to fight fake news, strengthen college internships, prepare for a journalism career, and protect our First Amendment rights. These media professionals also helped us gain a better understanding of how social media and a new digitalized society will impact the future of journalism.

Some of the many panel members included USA Today sports journalist AJ NNeuharth-Keusch, Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold, and 2004 Free Spirit Alum Mary Pilon who wrote “The Monopolists” and “The Kevin Show.”

Free Spirit scholars were also able to tour Washington, D.C. and some of its historic memorials including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a Lincoln Assassination Walking Tour. 

One of the most memorable moments of the trip was watching Carol Guzy receive the 2019 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media. Guzy is a four-time Pulitzer Prize winner for her work in photojournalism. 

While the 51 of us were running around D.C, marveling over media professionals and the beautiful architecture of the city, we were also creating 50 new friendships. This conference gave young journalists a chance to unite and share our passion for storytelling. I met videographers, designers, writers, and even podcasters from around the country who shared their amazing journalistic experiences with me. 

These talented individuals encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, make connections with strangers, and chase after the truth. 

By the end of the trip, we were making TikToks, collecting Voss water bottles, meditating on rooftops, and arguing over how to pronounce different words. I came home to Great Falls with new friends, unforgettable memories, and an increased passion for reporting the truth.

We are living in an era of “fake news” and a rapidly changing society. However, after meeting fifty other passionate and spirited scholars from across the nation, I know the future of journalism is in good hands.