Representing North Dakota

In Honor of Al Neuharth


The 51 Representatives or “Free Spirits” pose on their last full day together on the top of the Newseum. Eric Tyulyandin stands in second bottom row, second from the right. Photo courtesy of The Newseum

Eric Tyulyandin, Co-Head Editor

The Al Neuharth Free Spirit & Journalism Conference is a conference in Washington DC with the primary goal of promoting “the vital role of the First Amendment as a cornerstone of democracy and to inspire students to pursue journalism careers.” It is in honor of Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today. This trip just might be the greatest thing I’ve ever done.

       One junior from every state and Washington D.C. are selected for this program, and I was selected to represent North Dakota . It was one of the best experiences of my life. I became very close friends with many of the other representatives from neighboring states and from states far away.

       Being an independent, free spirit is important in being a reporter. When you’re a free spirit you do what you want and write about what you want. This is especially important because when you care about something you do it to the best of your ability. It becomes your top priority and you will do whatever it takes for you to have it done.

       We met many different, important journalists and free spirits, from the official White House press photographer, to a few of the freedom riders from the 1960s, to a Pulitzer Prize winner. These people taught us valuable skills on how to upgrade our publications, what it means to be a reporter and what it means to be a free spirit.

       We learned about how serious journalism is in the Middle East and how many journalists have died in pursuit of a story, especially in the Middle East, Turkey, and Egypt. We learned about laws and programs that are around to protect student journalists and let them cover whatever they feel should be covered.

       One of the most important journalists we met was Lesley Visser, the first major female sportscaster and most successful sportscaster overall. She taught us how to fight through and succeed, telling us to “cross even when the light says don’t walk.” Visser was the Newseum’s “2018 Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media,” and we were able to be a part of her inauguration.

       This trip was the greatest honor I have had as of yet. I am very grateful for being a part of this and it has helped me learn the importance of being a free spirit and to be the best journalist I can be.