Rebuilding trust

In 2018, the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy gathered ideas and considered possible solutions. Next up: proposals for action.

What is the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy?

The Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy was established by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the Knight Foundation to examine the decline in Americans’ trust of democratic institutions, particularly the media, over the last 40 years. Made up of 27 individuals including current and former members of government, media, business, nonprofits, academia, and the arts, the commission met throughout 2018. The Commission will release a report and recommendations in February 2019.

Research informed discussion

The Knight Commission began the year with evidence of widespread, deep, distrust in the media as well as of extreme polarization in the American people.

The Commission gathered more evidence–and thought-provoking nuance–throughout the year with research sponsored by the Knight Foundation and thoughtful commentary from the field. At meetings across the country, commissioners listened to expert testimony and discussed thorny problems. On Medium, the Knight Commission published research and expert commentary and solicited comments from the public.

Thinking about solutions

The Knight Commission asked journalists, technologists, scholars, and more to give us ideas on how we can rebuild trust. For many, the key is a focus on strengthening sources of trustworthy local news.

Others proposed ways to help to promote healthy conversation online and thought about ways social media contributes to the problem and can also be part of solutions.

The Knight commissioners began the hard work of developing drafts of their report. They asked the public to comment.

They asked for ideas for recommendations, while continuing their discussions.

The Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy will release its report and recommendations in February 2019.

What can we expect? At their best, commissions can explain past failures with an eye on influencing the future. Alberto Ibargüen, president of the Knight Foundation, often describes this as providing a “compass, not a roadmap.” A commission can explore problems and point to a future direction, but it’s up to citizens and leaders to figure out the details and forge the path forward.

Stay tuned!