News organizations, technology companies, citizens must take responsibility for restoring trust in democracy

February 4, 2019

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“Americans have lost faith in the institutions that underpin our democracy. We must confront this crisis together and, with this report, we have a compass.” —Anthony W. Marx and Jamie Woodson, Co-Chairs of the Knight Commission  

February 5, 2019  The Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy today released “Crisis in Democracy: Renewing Trust in America,” a groundbreaking report that puts forward solutions for the sharp decline in trust in democratic institutions, including the media. Issued unanimously, the Commissioners’ recommendations apply broadly to journalism, technology, and citizenship, and lay the groundwork for rebuilding trust in the 21st century.

Among the key recommendations:

  • All journalists, news and information distributors, including major technology companies, must commit to “radical transparency;” providing users with the information regarding how outlets select stories to cover, what sources they use, how they reach their conclusions, and proactively solicit user input;
  • With traditional business and financial models for journalism under siege, major investments in and new approaches to supporting sustainable nonprofit and journalism collaborations are essential, particularly at the local level;
  • Technology companies and online services that collect user data should become “information fiduciaries” and responsibly protect user information while proactively addressing disinformation and “filter bubbles”;
  • Newsrooms must work to diversify their staff and coverage to reflect the communities they serve; and
  • All Americans must possess civic and media literacy, with greater emphasis on the fundamentals of how a democracy functions and the media’s role within it, and national civic service reprioritized.

The commission is made up of leaders and experts from diverse backgrounds committed to creating more informed and engaged communities. They represent the media, business, technology, nonprofit, academic and arts communities.

“Democracy cannot function without flourishing and trusted media, or an informed citizenry.” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “I am grateful to the Commissioners for all their work on this vital issue and believe that their efforts can contribute to real change. It is now our collective responsibility to carry these recommendations forward.”  

“For a hundred years after the invention of the printing press, people had trouble figuring out what was true and how to handle so much more information. Today, we’re living just that kind of ‘Gutenberg moment.’ The Internet has transformed what we know and how we know it and, therefore, how we think about the world,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation President and CEO. “Because we’re just at the beginning of the tech revolution, it’s not too late. We can still examine the effects of technology on our democracy and actually decide what we – individuals, press, platform, and philanthropy – can, and have the will to do, to shape the future we want.”

The Knight Commission report is produced by the Aspen Institute and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. This accompanying fact sheet contains more information about the Commissioners and how this report was created.

Editor’s Note: The report will be presented at an event in Washington, D.C., at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, February 5 at the Aspen Institute headquarters. Watch the livestream at: http://as.pn/knightlive

About the Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

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Media Contacts:

Aspen Institute: Jon Purves, [email protected], 202-736-2111

Knight Foundation: Yari Aquino, [email protected], 202-800-7947

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