The Free Spirits of Journalism

My experience as one of the 51 high school journalists that took the Newseum by storm 

By Jessica Baskerville (Editor-in-Chief)


 In December 2016, I was already thinking about my summer 2017 plans. I knew that I wanted to attend some sort of journalism conference or workshop, but the idea of a hefty cost weighed on my shoulders. While I was nominated and was looking forward to attending a journalism conference in Virginia, I missed the scholarship deadline for said conference, and my family had no way of being able to pay the approximately $2,000 price tag.


Photo by M. Vryk/ Newseum

  Needless to say, I was devastated– probably more so than I should have been because that was the only conference that I had put on my radar, and the deadlines for other conferences has already past. Despite this devastation, my newspaper adviser, who found out about my situation, plopped information into my lap pertaining to a different conference in Washington, D.C.; a conference that was all expenses paid and even offered a $1,000 scholarship for college.


Photo by M. Vryk/ Newseum

  My sadness was immediately replaced by anxiety. I was thoroughly intimidated by the admissions process: the requirements consisted of writing two essays as well as sending in transcripts and work samples, and, ultimately, only one person would be selected from each state. I was worried that maybe all of my effort would result in nothing but yet another uneventful, boring summer. While I did end up submitting an application, I still felt hopeless.

  When I got my email one day during lunch at school, I jumped out of my chair with excitement. By that point, I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to get accepted to the program. That email made me so ecstatic:  for the opportunity and for the adventure that I was about to embark on. 

  Before I knew it, it was June, and I was getting dropped off at the hotel. I was about to leave the comfortable car with my mom and be pushed into a group of completely new people from all across the country, with the only prior information that I had about them being a packet of headshots and names. As I was one of the first people to arrive, my worries gradually faded away as more and more people showed up at the hotel. After talking to fellow scholars, it hit me that we were all there for the same reason; we all shared the same passion for journalism.


Photo by M. Vryk/ Newseum

  This passion led me well as the conference taught me so many valuable things and allowed me to learn from so many people. The most important thing that I gathered from after hearing all of the speakers from the conference, whether it was Chuck Todd from NBC or Marty Baron from the Washington Post,  was the journalistic writing is a skill and that skill can be applied to any subject that exists. I walked into the conference unsure of which area of journalism that I wanted to pursue, and I left the conference still unsure, but I was also content with the openness. By having not decided, it doesn’t close any doors, but it actually offers so many possibilities. 


Photo by M. Vryk/ Newseum

  When I was writing my essays in back in January, a free spirit was the last thing that I considered myself to be. I was worried that if I got accepted into the program, I wouldn’t fit in with all of my fellow scholars who would probably fit the description more than me. After going to the Free Spirit, as cheesy as it sounds, I not only left with more knowledge relating to the ever changing field of journalism, but I also left with 50 new, passionate friends. 


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