Who Will Write the Story? The Critical Role of Local Journalism

Call for proposals from Virginia public libraries

In 2020, we invite public libraries across the Commonwealth to apply for funding 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 should take place between March and November 2020. Proposed programming could feature one of any number of options that you choose for your community, such as: 

  • local journalists in conversation
  • a writing workshop on how to write an op-ed
  • a media literacy workshop, including identifying news vs. editorial content
  • the role of the free press in civic education and voter engagement
  • a roundtable with community members and elected officials on how public meetings are reported

We would like to see your library collaborate on this program with at least three community partners. Possible suggestions include your local community college (departments or professors), local journalists (newspaper or radio staff or freelancers), elected officials, and nonprofits. 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 

All applications must be submitted online. Please review this PDF of Application Questions in advance and then CLICK HERE to submit your proposal.


Successful applicants will receive grant funding in support of proposed programming. The amount of funding will depend upon the number of accepted applications.

A portion of the grant funding will be designated for advertising your event in the local newspaper. Please provide examples of how you would use additional, non-designated funds. Possible suggestions include modest stipends for speakers, promotional support (flyers, social media advertising, etc.), or purchase of related books for your library collection.

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

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


  • Applications due February 29, 2020
  • Decisions will be released March 13, 2020
  • Programs to take place between March and November 2020


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.


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

As part of the 2020 Virginia Festival of the Book, the Center will present a program on this theme on March 19, 2020, titled Who Will Write the Story?, featuring journalists in a discussion devoted to the necessity of local reporting for a vital democracy. This program will be available as a livestream during the Festival, or as a transcript or archived video following the Festival.

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
    [email protected], 804-521-7584
  • Chris Tyree, director of the Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism
    [email protected], 757-406-3478


Please contact Virginia Center for the Book director Jane Kulow at [email protected].

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.