WHAT: The Poynter Institute’s Celebration of Journalism, honoring the free press, democracy and the distinguished career of Chris Wallace

EVENT TYPE: Fundraiser supporting the nonprofit Poynter Institute

WHEN: Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020

TIME: 7-8:30 p.m. Eastern

This year made clear the enormous value of journalism and how the work of the nonprofit Poynter Institute supports the free press and a healthy democracy.

We are all learning to navigate the pandemic and are collectively fighting an infodemic. Local and national journalists, fact-checkers and educators are debunking bad information and shining a spotlight on the science and medicine around the coronavirus. They continue to explore the challenges of staying healthy while reopening schools and local economies. Beyond COVID-19, journalists are telling stories about the nation’s conversation on racism and social justice, voting safety and security, and how communities are charting a path to a better quality of life.

All the while, Poynter supported these efforts — empowering both journalists and citizens with fact-checking, just-in-time training and advice on ethical decision-making. Poynter’s staff has focused its outreach on local journalists to help them stay safe and sane during an exceptionally intense news cycle. We have been teaching media literacy to targets of disinformation, including first-time voters and those over 50 years old, so they can sort fact from fiction on digital platforms for themselves. We made more than $500,000 worth of online courses free to colleges and others in need as the pandemic changed our patterns of work.

Each year we celebrate the courageous and vital work of journalists with our Bowtie Ball — which is also Poynter’s single biggest fundraising opportunity. While we can’t gather this year in person, we are moving forward with a unique online event.

With your ticket or sponsorship, in addition to supporting the vital work of the Poynter Institute, you can expect an exciting evening celebrating journalism and democracy. Poynter’s first-ever major online fundraiser for the free press will feature special appearances by celebrities and journalists, rare performances and poignant storytelling. We will also honor award-winning broadcast journalist, best-selling author and anchor of “Fox News Sunday” Chris Wallace with the annual Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement.

“The Poynter Institute has been promoting and teaching solid journalism for almost half a century. At a time when traditional standards of fairness and accuracy are being questioned — both in and outside the industry — Poynter is a keeper of the flame for our profession. I am proud to receive the Poynter Medal.”

— Chris Wallace, 2020 Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement Honoree

Expanding Poynter’s annual fundraising gala

Lester Holt performed the bass during the Bowtie Ball in 2018. Holt, anchor for Dateline NBC and NBC Nightly News, was honored with The Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. Photo by Carrie Pratt

The Poynter Institute is a nonprofit solely dedicated to the essential role of journalism and fact-based expression in service to democracy.

Nearly every major news organization you depend on for news and information depends on Poynter to develop its leaders, advance newsroom diversity, strengthen business models, make ethical decisions and improve its storytelling techniques. Citizens rely on us, too – to better understand journalism, hold politicians accountable for the claims they make and build the skills needed to tell fact from fiction in their newsfeeds.

Poynter hosts an annual fundraising gala in our hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida,  — the Bowtie Ball — where hundreds of supporters gather to celebrate journalism and make financial contributions toward our mission. This event typically raises more than $500,000 toward our work making good journalism better.

To put it plainly, we need your support this year as we pivot under the circumstances to a remote execution of this grand fundraising event.

Journalism is essential. 

In a year of defining what’s essential, we will salute the free press, enshrined in the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution — as core to the future of this country as the ones who take care of us, feed us and lead us are the ones who inform us.

Your support is essential.

If you believe in facts, journalism and the pursuit of the truth, we encourage you to attend our event and give generously in support of our mission.

Celebrate the free press, journalism and democracy with Poynter. 

In the past, Poynter honored the recipient of the Poynter Medal in person at our annual Bowtie Ball fundraising gala in Florida. But the realities of a COVID-19 world, where journalism’s value has been so apparent and should be celebrated, require a different approach. Now we can host thousands of supporters, friends, dignitaries and sponsors from all over the world at our online celebration. We look forward to more fun and more surprises than ever before.

As details are confirmed, we will update this page with a full schedule.

Sponsor this event to elevate journalism and strengthen democracy

Pioneering broadcast journalist Katie Couric received the Poynter Medal in 2019.

Honor the journalists and journalism that have kept us informed and connected in this unprecedented year of politics and pandemic. Be online with us when we award the Poynter Medal of Lifetime Achievement in Journalism to Chris Wallace. Expect appearances from the familiar faces of journalists who’ve joined us at past events. Watch for new faces as we share how journalism has made a difference in this year of crisis and courage.

Sponsorships are available now for this celebration of journalism. Stand up for Poynter and fact-based reporting by supporting this event and the work of Poynter and our journalists at PolitiFact, the International Fact-Checking Network and MediaWise. We promise a fast-paced, interesting and fun-filled evening that will remind you of the essential role of journalism in democracy.

Sponsorship levels

All sponsor levels include recognition in at least four ads in the Tampa Bay Times, one ad in Florida Trend, and in ‘thank you’ messages in The Poynter Report with Tom Jones media newsletter and PolitiFact Weekly newsletter; spotlight in Poynter’s donor newsletter in 2021; acknowledgement in Poynter social media accounts; recognition on slides during the event; logos in event advertising; and gala celebration gift boxes, including fine wine*, from  Mazzaro’s Italian Market in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Presenting Sponsor: $25,000

  • Company name is listed prominently as a presenting sponsor.
  • You can record a video message to all guests that will play at the close of the event.
  • You may offer a custom conversation with a Poynter expert for a virtual audience you gather within 90 days after the event
  • You will receive 10 tickets to attend the pre-event VIP reception featuring a Q&A with Chris Wallace
  • You will receive a gala gift box for up to 10 of your event guests

*Wine delivered where state law permits. Otherwise, cocktail mixers will be included.

The First Amendment: $15,000

  • Company name will be acknowledged as the sponsor of one of the event segments during the gala
  • You may offer a custom conversation with a Poynter expert for a virtual audience you gather within 90 days after the event
  • You will receive 10 tickets to attend the pre-event VIP reception featuring a Q&A with Chris Wallace
  • You will receive a gala gift box for up to 10 of your event guests

*Wine delivered where state law permits. Otherwise, cocktail mixers will be included.

Democracy: $10,000

  • Company name will be recognized as host for event special guests
  • You will receive tickets to attend the pre-event VIP reception featuring a Q&A with Chris Wallace for five guests
  • You will receive a gala gift box for up to five of your event guests
  • You will receive five raffle tickets to win a $100 bottle of wine courtesy of Mazzaro’s Italian Market in St. Petersburg, Fla. One winner will be selected. Winner will also be announced during the gala program.


*Wine delivered where state law permits. Otherwise, cocktail mixers will be included.

Truth: $5,000

  • You will receive tickets to attend the pre-event VIP experience featuring a Q&A with Chris Wallace for five guests
  • You will receive a gala gift box for up to five of your event guests
  • You will receive five raffle tickets to win a $100 bottle of wine courtesy of Mazzaro’s Italian Market in St. Petersburg, Fla. One winner will be selected. Winner will also be announced during the gala program.


*Wine delivered where state law permits. Otherwise, cocktail mixers will be included.

Would you like to sponsor this event? Please email Poynter advancement director Wendy Wallace at WWallace@poynter.org.

About Poynter, the global leader in fact-checking and journalism advancement

Poynter adjunct faculty Tom Huang leads Poynter's most competitive program, Power of Diverse Voices: Minority Writers Workshop.

The Poynter Institute was founded more than 45 years ago by Nelson Poynter, then the owner and editor of the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times. Mr. Poynter created a school to train professional journalists and elevate the craft. Upon his death, in an exceptional act that ensured the independence of his beloved local paper, Poynter bequeathed ownership of the now Tampa Bay Times to the school.

Today, the institute still owns the paper while having grown into a nonprofit global leader in journalism education. Last year alone, Poynter trained tens of thousands of professional journalists, educators and students in person and 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 International Fact-Checking Network, and a digital news literacy program called MediaWise that teaches teens, seniors and first-time voters to tell fact from fiction online. In addition, Poynter is the home of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at Poynter, a resource for journalists and citizens to navigate today’s complex media landscape.

The Poynter Medal and fundraising gala were created to celebrate journalism and Poynter’s legacy.