About Poynter’s Bowtie Ball

Poynter’s Bowtie Ball is an elegant year-end celebration of the free press and its impact on our lives. Guests are immersed in storytelling, introduced to both newsmakers and prominent journalists, and delighted by how their support of Poynter strengthens the integrity of democratic systems.

Each year, the program is fresh and dynamic, reflecting the mood of the moment and inspiring us with a vision for a more informed, more inclusive future. And each year, Poynter honors an esteemed journalist with the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. Previous recipients include Anderson Cooper, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, Lesley Stahl, Chris Wallace, Katie Couric, Lester Holt, Judy Woodruff, Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer.


Poynter is a gold standard in journalistic excellence and dedicated to the preservation and advancement of press freedom in democracies worldwide.


While the Bowtie Ball is a celebration of the courageous and vital work of journalists, it is also Poynter’s most significant fundraising gala of the year. Hundreds of prominent media executives, business people, philanthropists, public servants and citizens gather to uplift Poynter’s mission to elevate journalism, find solutions that promote trust and transparency in news and stoke meaningful public discourse.

Poynter is a global nonprofit working to address society’s most pressing issues by teaching journalists and journalism, covering the media and the complexities facing the industry, convening and community building, improving the capacity and sustainability of news organizations and fostering trust and reliability of information. 

In 2024, Poynter’s priorities are recovering and sustaining the business of local news, elevating diverse voices in media, reducing the spread of misinformation, transforming newsroom culture to be more inclusive, and holding journalists accountable to the ideals of the craft through training and coverage.

Each year, Poynter trains tens of thousands of professional journalists, media leaders, educators and students. Our clients include the news organizations you rely on for credible information: Associated Press, BBC, Hearst, NBC, Univision, ESPN, NPR, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Gannett and McClatchy newsrooms, and numerous local TV stations, community newspapers and digital news sites.

Poynter also operates three fact-checking enterprises: the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), and a social-first media literacy initiative called MediaWise.

In addition, Poynter is the home of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership, a resource to help all people navigate today’s complex media landscape. As owner of the Tampa Bay Times, Poynter is dedicated to advancing independent reporting and sustaining local news in communities worldwide.

Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism

The Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism honors accomplished journalists whose work has made an impact on democracy and its institutions. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper accepted the honor at the 2023 Bowtie Ball. 

“One of the great privileges of being a journalist, being a reporter, is that you’re able to step into somebody’s life — often in the worst moment of their life,” Cooper said. “If you do it responsibly and they invite you in, it’s an extraordinary thing to kind of touch somebody else’s pain and have them tell you their story. To be able to have them trust you enough to make (their story) into something that other people will see …  I think there’s great power in that.”

After experiencing what many of our training participants describe as “Poynter Magic” at the Bowtie Ball, Anderson Cooper joined other Medal winners who have gone on to help Poynter advance its initiatives. 

Moved by Poynter’s mission to promote women to the highest levels of leadership within the journalism industry, Katie Couric made a donation to support Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media.

“I’m really excited about helping young women, and a diverse group of young women, to really consider journalism as an important career,” Couric said at the Bowtie Ball. “We’ve been under siege a lot lately and to be able to be in a group that really recognizes and appreciates what journalists do is so gratifying.”

It was at the Bowtie Ball that Lester Holt first learned about MediaWise, Poynter’s digital media literacy project that empowers people of all ages and backgrounds to sort fact from fiction online. By becoming the first MediaWise Ambassador, Holt elevated the program and inspired other journalists to support it, including: Christiane Amanpour, Margaret Brennan, Joan Lunden, Amna Nawaz, Savannah Sellers, Hari Sreenivasan and Jessica Yellin.

“Fact-checking and identifying trustworthy sources is something I’ve done every day for over four decades,” Holt said. “But in today’s noisy media environment, those skills are just as important for our readers and viewers as they are for those of us doing the reporting. MediaWise will help instill those values at a young age and I’m honored to play a small part in educating a new generation of thoughtful and discerning news consumers.”

Poynter’s Distinguished Service to Journalism Award

At some Bowtie Balls, Poynter presents the Distinguished Service to Journalism Award. It is bestowed upon an individual who has championed the goals and craft of journalism through actionable efforts or meritorious service.

Previously, Poynter presented the Distinguished Service to Journalism Award to:

  • Norman Pearlstine, longtime media executive and former executive editor of the Los Angeles Times (2019)
  • Arthur Sulzberger Jr., former publisher of The New York Times and chairman of The New York Times company (2018)
  • Paul Steiger, founding editor-in-chief, CEO and president of ProPublica (2017)
  • H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, media entrepreneur, philanthropist and Founder of The Institute for Journalism in New Media (2016)
  • Brian Tierney, advertising executive and former publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer (2015)

The Bowtie Ball is a celebration of the best of journalism

Throughout the Bowtie Ball, guests experience powerful storytelling about the impact of journalism on everyday people. One local newsroom’s dedication to stopping corruption  took center stage during the 2023 event. When a group of government workers couldn’t take abuse from their boss any longer, they told their story to Jeff German, a trusted investigative reporter at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. This is the story of an elected official attempting to silence a journalist, and how journalists and public servants refuse to let that happen.

In 2022, Poynter went behind the scenes of “Poisoned,” a Tampa Bay Times investigation of how a lead factory overexposed its workers, their families and the surrounding neighborhood to dangerous toxins. The series earned the Tampa Bay Times its 14th Pulitzer Prize. Florida journalists who covered Hurricane Ian were also recognized for their crucial role in keeping communities informed throughout tragedy and recovery.

During our online gala in 2021, we saw how the year’s top stories exposed the fragility of democracy. We also saw how honest, independent reporting reinforces our freedom to make important decisions and take meaningful action in our everyday lives. Guests also heard the story behind The Indianapolis Star investigation that exposed Larry Nassar’s abuse and cover-ups at USA Gymnastics and beyond — and how Poynter played a part.

In 2020, we highlighted the reporters around the country who helped us make sense of twin epidemics: coronavirus and racism.

Get involved with the 2024 Bowtie Ball

If you’d like to sponsor the Bowtie Ball, please contact Deborah Read, chief development officer, at sponsorships@poynter.org for more information. You can also support the Poynter Institute by making an online, tax-deductible contribution at any time. Any donation amount supports Poynter’s mission of strengthening journalism in service to democracy.