SDHC Announces One Book, Partnership with SDNA on Democracy & Informed Citizen Initiative

In 2018, the South Dakota Humanities Council and its partners will explore the rapidly-changing media environment. 

'Democracy and the Informed Citizen' Forums, 2018 One Book Selection Announced 

As part of a special partnership created to promote SDHC's 2018 programming initiative, "Democracy and the Informed Citizen," the statewide non-profit and the South Dakota Newspaper Association will host a series of public forums focusing on public trust and the media. The 12 South Dakota forums will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, current and former journalists, journalism professors and others.

In conjunction with this democracy-themed programming, groups around the state will read and discuss the 2018 One Book South Dakota, "Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism" by Thomas E. Patterson.

"Democracy and the Informed Citizen" is funded as part of a national initiative supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

"The genesis of Democracy and the Informed Citizen was inspired by the Federation's recent partnership with the Pulitzer Prizes on its centennial Campfires initiative and the more than 700 events commemorating the milestone hosted by councils across the country," according to a news release from the Federation.

"In 2016, as questions related to journalism and the media increased throughout the presidential campaign and in other events, the Federation and Pulitzer again collaborated to develop a new opportunity for programs designed to examine what it means to be an informed citizen in a democracy."

"Democracy and the Informed Citizen" examines the critical role of journalism and the power of the humanities to enrich understanding of local and national issues and inspire citizen engagement. SDHC is one of 49 humanities councils in the U.S. to receive local funding for the initiative. SDHC also received funding for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize initiative.

'Informing the News'

Anchoring the programming is the 2018 One Book South Dakota, which argues that deeply introspective, or "knowledge-based," reporting is crucial to the future of democracy and public information.

Thomas E. Patterson, a graduate of South Dakota State University in Brookings and the University of Minnesota, is the Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Harvard Kennedy School. His research has been funded by the Ford, Markle, Smith-Richardson, Pew, Knight, Carnegie, and National Science foundations. For more on Patterson and the One Book, please visit our One Book SD page

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded $1.7 million to the Federation of State Humanities Councils in June for "Democracy and the Informed Citizen." The Federation, which facilitates programming for humanities councils around the U.S., invited councils to submit proposals for the program.

"I am excited to announce that we received $35,693 in support of this timely and worthwhile initiative," said Sherry DeBoer, SDHC executive director. "We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership."

Keynotes Featured in Programming Initiative

Working with SDNA, South Dakota Public Broadcasting and other academic and media partners, SDHC will produce keynote events featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and journalists who will provide historical and contemporary context to support the critical thinking skills necessary in the current information age.

"We are pleased to support this important initiative across South Dakota," said SDNA Executive Director David Bordewyk. "The work that journalists do to provide news and information every day helps citizens make informed decisions and be more engaged in our democracy. This is an essential role for newspapers and all news media in South Dakota."

Democracy and the Informed Citizen programming will explore "infoliteracy"—the skills needed to determine source quality, to recognize biases that can distort reporting, and to navigate the proliferating media available to consumers. The initiative will kick off with Pulitzer prize-winning executive editor of the Washington Post Martin Baron's lecture in late April at the University of South Dakota. Baron was the 2017 recipient of the Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in The Media.

SDHC will also host journalism and social media experts at the South Dakota Festival of Books in September, which will feature One Book author Thomas E. Patterson and other notable writers who will be announced in the coming months. Patterson, a South Dakota State University graduate, will provide a keynote lecture about his book. Closing events will focus on National Newspaper Week in October and recognition of Native American journalists with special events on Native American Day.

Previous Pulitzer Participation

SDHC was one of 46 councils to participate in the 2016 Pulitzer Prizes Centennial Campfires Initiative, which drew on the humanities to address questions faced by our society regarding important issues such as race relations, freedom of speech and more. The strength of programming hosted by SDHC and others factored into the Mellon Foundation's decision to fund this year's follow-up.

"We are thrilled to receive these funds from Mellon for 'Democracy and the Informed Citizen,' which will enable the state humanities council network to develop programs uniquely tailored to their communities and that answer questions raised across the country regarding journalism, engaged citizenship, and democracy," said Esther Mackintosh, Federation president, when the funding was announced in June.

"Councils have a distinguished record of implementing meaningful programs that bring people together around difficult, and at times, divisive topics through the use of the humanities. The most recent example, and one that paved the way for this initiative, is the collaboration between the state humanities councils and the Pulitzer Prizes."

Apply for a Grant, Participate in Programming

In order to tailor programs to community needs, SDHC is surveying constituents throughout the state to determine topics of local interest and relevance. Organizations are encouraged to apply for grant funding in support of the initiative. The next major grant deadline is Feb. 28, 2018.

SDHC's "Book Club to Go" (formerly Reading Group Toolkit) will also feature the One Book South Dakota author and other selections relating to the theme.

To apply for a grant or to inquire about how to participate in the initiative, visit or call 605-688-6113 for more information. South Dakota Humanities Council grant-funded projects should be informed by humanities materials and scholarship. Projects may not advocate for a specific political view.

For more information about SDNA's involvement in the initiative, please contact