Graphic that says 'Democracy Day 2022'
The inaugural Democracy Day collaborative takes places on Sept. 15.

This is one in a series of Nebraska News Service stories about election and voting issues in the state and the efforts of people and organizations who are working to strengthen democracy. This series is part of a national initiative — — in which more than 300 news outlets published stories on Democracy Day, Sept. 15, to bring attention to the crisis facing American democracy.

Democracy Day is a collaborative news effort announced this year to raise awareness of threats facing American democracy. The event coincides with the International Day of Democracy. 

On Sept. 15, over 350 news organizations, including about 200 in the USA Today network, will publish pro-democracy content in print, TV, radio, podcast and more. University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications students will be participating by publishing stories through Nebraska News Service.

The coordinated effort aims to alert citizens of growing anti-democratic efforts in the U.S. and shift the media narrative before the 2024 presidential election, where people fear democracy will fail.

MicrosoftTeams image 300x300 - More than 300 organizations to publish pro-democracy stories for first ever U.S. Democracy Day“In 2022 and heading into 2024, there are several things that could cause the democratic collapse of the United States by 2025. Our goal is to play the small part that we can with the media to try to prevent that from happening,” said Stephanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media. 

Murray, one of the co-founders of Democracy Day, said that right now journalists must prioritize providing readers with information that will help them make educated decisions, such as how elections work, how votes are counted and who creates voting legislation.

“We hope that Democracy Day will be a key rallying point to get more and more news organizations to realize that politics coverage is fine, but what you need to help your community participate in civic life is more coverage of how democracy works on your local level,” Murray said.

Rachel Glickhouse, director of Learning and Labs at News Revenue Hub, first suggested the idea of Democracy Day on Twitter in January this year. Several people responded to the post and were enthusiastic about the concept, including Murray, Bridget Thoreson of the Institute for Nonprofit News and Jennifer Brandel of Hearken. The four, who knew each other from working in the industry, started planning.

They first sent out a Google form among their networks asking who would be interested in participating and to what degree they would want to be involved. In two weeks, they received more than 100 responses from people working in a wide range of media in the U.S., from independent to hyper-local to nonprofit.

They mostly organized the effort in their spare time over the next couple of months. Murray’s team at the Center for Cooperative Media decided to host the website and do social media. Eventually, they began to host monthly and bimonthly meetings with a committee of people who would help design content for the website and recruit. 

Recently, the Democracy Day cause received a $125,000 grant from Democracy Fund, an independent and nonpartisan foundation established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, that has helped the entirely volunteer-run organization plan for next year. They hope to increase and improve marketing, add an advisory board, provide newsrooms with resources and more.

Murray hopes the day could become an annual effort that also includes educational events and training to help the media help their communities better understand democracy. 

“That would be the best case scenario,” Murray said. “But we just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Read more Nebraska News Services stories about democracy here and national Democracy Day stories here.
Halle Starns is a senior journalism and advertising & public relations double major. She is currently a copy editor at The Daily Nebraskan.