Native American journalists honor Al Neuharth

Native American journalists honor Al Neuharth The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) at The University of South Dakota honored journalist and media icon Al Neuharth for his lifelong commitment to diversity at the 61st annual convention of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Oct. 11, in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Neuharth, founder and senior advisory chairman of the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people, is being recognized for his ongoing efforts to advance Native American journalism in the mainstream media.

"Al Neuharth has been among the strongest voices in creating positive change for Native Americans in mainstream media organizations and with the professionals who manage these newsrooms," said Ron Walters, NAJA's executive director.

In 1984, as a trustee of the Gannett Foundation, the forerunner to the Freedom Forum, Neuharth helped secure seed money to create what was then called the Native American Press Association (NAPA), later renamed the Native American Journalists Association.

"Al's dedication to journalism education for people of color is unsurpassed," Walters said. "His candidness about the need and value of Native American journalists in the newsroom has been the guiding force behind many Native American training and recruiting programs currently in place."

Neuharth was chairman of the Freedom Forum from 1986 to 1997, and was a trustee of the foundation and its predecessor, the Gannett Foundation, from 1965 to 1999. �He is founder of the nation's most widely read newspaper, USA TODAY, and former chairman and chief executive officer of Gannett Company.

Over the past five years the Freedom Forum has sponsored cutting edge Native journalism training programs such as the American Indian Journalism Institute (AIJI), which provides training and experience to Native college students, and the Native American Newspaper Career Conference, which exposes Native high school and college students to newspaper careers. Together, these programs have introduced journalism to more than 500 Native Americans.

Walters said, "The impact of Neuharth's effort concerning Native American journalism is staggering and honoring him is long overdue."

In May 2003, NAJA relocated its national headquarters to the newly renovated Al Neuharth Media Center on the campus at The University of South Dakota. Through the Freedom Forum's in-kind contribution of office space at the new facility, NAJA now occupies space alongside the Freedom Forum's South Dakota operations.

"The partnership of NAJA and the Freedom Forum on The University of South Dakota campus is a natural, and Al Neuharth played a major role in bringing these groups together," said Dan Lewerenz (Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska), NAJA's president and an Associated Press correspondent. "NAJA and the Freedom Forum both advocate for a free and open press. And at USD we can work with an outstanding journalism program to reach even more Native students, building the pipeline from Indian Country to both Native and non-Native newsrooms."

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