The 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 our 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 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 2023, 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.

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, Poynter trained tens of thousands of professional journalists, media leaders, educators and students online. Our clients include the news organizations you rely on for credible information: 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 digital news literacy program called MediaWise. In 2020, Poynter’s fact-checking units led the way on debunking election and COVID-19 misinformation. For example, we founded the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance, a collaborative project uniting 99 fact-checking organizations from more than 70 countries to debunk waves of pandemic and vaccine misinformation circling the globe.

In addition, Poynter is the home of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at Poynter, a resource for all people to 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 who have helped inform and inspire the country and the world. Legendary reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward received the Medals in 2022 for their dogged reporting from Nixon to Trump that changed the course of American history and fortified journalism’s role in a free society.

When Lesley Stahl, award-winning broadcast journalist and “60 Minutes” correspondent for CBS News, received the award in 2021 she said, “There’s nothing more wonderful than being recognized by your peers. It’s a joy to be allowed to be a reporter.”

After experiencing what many of our training participants describe as “Poynter Magic” at the Bowtie Ball, other Medal winners 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

During the Bowtie Ball, Poynter also 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. Local journalism took center stage during the 2022 event. We 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. At the 2019 gala, we told the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that investigated the Parkland shooting, as well as the parents who relied on their local paper to know exactly what happened to their children that Valentine’s Day. In 2018, we showed how ProPublica released an exclusive tape of children’s voices in a detention center at the U.S.-Mexico border and ended up impacting national policy and how the Houston Chronicle provided life-saving information to Texas residents during Hurricane Harvey.

Get involved with the 2023 Bowtie Ball.

If you’d like to sponsor the Bowtie Ball, please contact Deborah Read, chief development officer, at for more information. You can also support the Poynter Institute right now. Any donation amount supports Poynter’s mission of strengthening journalism in service to democracy.