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 Lesley Stahl, Chris Wallace, Katie Couric, Lester Holt, Judy Woodruff, Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer.

Poynter is the global leader in fact-checking and journalism advancement

While the Bowtie Ball is a celebration of the courageous and vital work of journalists, it is also Poynter’s single biggest fundraising opportunity. Hundreds of prominent media executives, business people, philanthropists, public servants and citizens gather to uplift Poynter’s mission to elevate journalism as the crossroads of community.

In 2021, Poynter’s priorities are recovering the business of local news, elevating diverse voices in media, fighting 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.

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. Lesley Stahl, award-winning broadcast journalist and “60 Minutes” correspondent for CBS News, received the award in 2021.

“There’s nothing more wonderful than being recognized by your peers,” said Stahl when she accepted the award. “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 donated money to support Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media.

It was at the Bowtie Ball that Lester Holt first learned about MediaWise, Poynter’s digital literacy project that empowers people of all ages 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. “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.

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 2019, 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.

To get a better sense of the energy at the live event, you can rewatch the 2021 online gala here or view a highlight reel from the 2019 Bowtie Ball.

Get involved with the 2022 Bowtie Ball

If you’d like to sponsor the Bowtie Ball, please contact You can also support the Poynter Institute right now. Any donation amount supports Poynter’s mission of strengthening democracy by elevating journalism.