Stand up for press freedom in your community and
apply to PEN America’s Press Freedom Incentive Fund

Press freedom in the United States is under greater siege now than at any moment in recent memory. Denigration of journalism and the news media is becoming a line of political attack that threatens to undermine Americans’ commitment to press freedom as a foundation of democracy. The crucial role of independent reporting in keeping government accountable and citizens informed and engaged had long seemed protected by not only the First Amendment but also broadly held public consensus. Now, doubt is being seeded and—alongside significant shifts in news delivery and consumption—creating an increasingly polarized information environment where faith in factualness and the truth is weakening. PEN America believes it is critical to act. If press freedom is to survive in America, it will be because we rise up—in our communities, whether urban or rural, from coast to coast—to demand and defend an independent and robust press as a cornerstone of democracy.

PEN America’s Press Freedom Incentive Fund supports PEN America members and their allies to mobilize their communities around press freedom. During its pilot 2017-2018 year, this Fund supported initiatives in more than 20 cities and regions—in places like Detroit, Birmingham, and Denver—to build new local constituencies ready to defend press freedom.

The Fund, now open for applications, calls on members and activists outside the major coastal metropolitan areas to join us in this effort, devising ways to engage and activate their communities. In addition to funding, PEN America’s experts on free expression, event planning, communications, audience building, and literary activism are ready to support these efforts.

We are accepting submissions for proposals and projects from individuals as well as local groups to support activities that bolster an understanding of and support for press freedom. The Press Freedom Incentive Fund is designed to provide grants of about $1,000–$4,000 to support these activities. Apply today! 

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The Press Freedom Incentive Fund, part of the PEN Across America initiative, supports new initiatives to invigorate local communities with ideas, information, questions, and discourse around press freedom defense. Proposals may center on events, panel discussions, campaigns, outreach efforts, educational initiatives, workshops, media outlet partnerships, and other formats that can be effective in building local press freedom constituencies (a list of possible ideas for inspiration is contained in the FAQs below). Priority will be given to proposals that have the potential to reach a significant and diverse audience, engage and sustain that audience over time, and facilitate partnership with local groups and organizations.

How do journalists tell stories? How can we convey to the public the impact of journalism? What role does the press play in empowering citizens, stimulating social change, and holding leaders accountable? What makes press stories trustworthy?

For more information about eligibility, selection criteria, and additional resources we are offering, please refer to the frequently asked questions below. You can also contact us at