In 2020–2022, we are working with public libraries across the Commonwealth to support public programming that explores issues related to the critical role of local journalism in supporting an informed citizenry. Working within the theme of “Democracy and the Informed Citizen,” funded programs will take place in communities across Virginia between September 2020 and May 2022.

Our partners in this initiative are the Virginia Press Association and the Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism; both of those organizations encourage engagement with their members across Virginia. We appreciate partnership with the Virginia Library Association to reach Virginia public libraries.

How to Apply—Deadline Extended!

The deadline for general applications was February 29, 2020. However, with the grant extension, applications from will be accepted on a rolling basis until March 31, 2022. Please review this PDF of Application Questions in advance and CLICK HERE to apply.

Successful applicants will receive grant funding in support of proposed programming. A portion of the grant funding will be designated for advertising the event in the local newspaper. 

Although we cannot guarantee full funding for any or all proposals that are selected, we encourage libraries to outline anticipated funding uses based on a $750 budget, plus advertising costs.

Funded libraries will be expected to provide a post-event report with a brief recap of the programming and attendance.

Questions? Email Virginia Center for the Book director Jane Kulow at


The Democracy and the Informed Citizen Initiative, funded by the Mellon Foundation in recognition of the Pulitzer Foundation and administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils, has these goals:

  • Deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the intimate connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry, based on the following premises:
    1. A healthy democracy requires an informed citizenry
    2. The humanities and journalism play a vital role in fostering an informed citizenry.
    3. Informed citizens are media literate.
  • Increase media literacy by engaging the public in discussions with Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists in journalism, other respected journalists, and scholars about reliable and unreliable sources of information.
  • Expand support for local journalism by creating opportunities to engage directly with community members to address issues of concern.

Funded Projects

The following libraries submitted applications and received funding for their proposed programming in this project:


In June 2021, in partnership with the Federation of State Humanities Councils (FSHC), Virginia Humanities presented a two part series, The Future of Journalism, the Fate of Democracy. The first event, moderated by Phoebe Stein, director of the FSHC, featured nationally-recognized journalists and scholars, Penny Abernathy, visiting professor at Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University; Greg Moore, partner and editor-in-chief of Deke Digital; Karen Rundlet, director of journalism at the Knight Foundation; and Margaret Sullivan, media columnist at The Washington Post. CLICK HERE to watch the event.

The second part in the series, a roundtable moderated by Karen Rundlet, featured representatives of nonprofit journalism organizations across the country, including Betsy Edwards, executive director of the Virginia Press Association; Courtney Hurtt, program manager of NewsMatch at the Institute for Nonprofit News; Jiquanda Johnson, founder and editor of Flint Beat; Alan Miller, founder and CEO of the News Literacy Project; Christopher Tyree, executive director of the Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism; and Steve Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America. CLICK HERE to watch the event.

In December 2020, as part of this initiative, Virginia Festival of the Book presented journalism scholar Alissa V. Richardson, author of Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones and the New Protest #Journalism, in public conversation with UVA media studies professor Meredith Clark. CLICK HERE to watch the event or read a transcript.

With Good Reason radio produced a March 14, 2020, show on “Hard News,” featuring interviews with Betsy Edwards (executive director of the Virginia Press Association), Katrice Hardy (executive editor of the Greenville News and the South Regional Editor for USA Today Network), Lewis Raven Wallace (independent journalist and author of The View from Somewhere: Undoing the Myth of Journalistic Objectivity), and Chris Tyree (director of the Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism). CLICK HERE to learn more and listen to these interviews. 

In October 2018, the Virginia Center for the Book presented journalists and authors Monica Hesse (The Washington Post and author of American Fire), Beth Macy (The Roanoke Times and author of Dopesick), and Eric Eyre (Charleston Gazette-Mail) in a discussion of important issues impacting communities nationwide—including the opioids crisis and the effects of economic decline on rural communities—and the vital role of local journalism to an informed citizenry. CLICK HERE to watch the event.

Please review this background documentation of the critical role of local journalism (Democracy and the Informed Citizen_journalism backgrounder). 

Further, the directors of these Virginia-based journalism advocacy organizations encourage you to contact them with any questions or to arrange speakers:

  • Betsy Edwards, executive director of the Virginia Press Association, 804-521-7584
  • Chris Tyree, director of the Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism, 757-406-3478

This program is part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry.

We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership.

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