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Photo: The Knight Foundation

Knight Commission recommends transparency, diversity, and philanthropy in current journalism landscape

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Trust, media, and democracy are three things that should go hand-in-hand, however, in recent years many believe that has no longer been the case.

During the founding days of this nation, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states the importance of the free press, and the fact that Congress can make no law prohibiting it. The free press has always played a crucial role in maintaining the democracy of the land.

However, today as the number of media platforms continues to increase, the level of distrust towards the media has increased, as well. When there is distrust in the media, there is also a distrust in democracy.

"For any democracy to survive and flourish, no single principle is more fundamental than the free and robust exchange of ideas – especially when we disagree," Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania, said during an interview.

"Each and every American depends upon excellent journalism, honest reporting, and the complete and accurate representation of stories because we all are the beneficiaries of democratic self-government," she continued. 

The Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy recently published a 200-plus page report on this very topic.

“Democracy and the news media are inextricably intertwined, and it is clear that both are in crisis,” the report states.

The Commission recommended 10 specific actions that journalists, media distributors, the government, and American citizens can do to restore the public’s trust in media and democracy.

The recommendations are:

  1. Practice radical transparency.
  2. Expand financial support for news.
  3. Use technology to combat disinformation.
  4. Diversify news organizations.
  5. Online services must take responsibility for protecting their users.
  6. Online services should track and disclose sources of information.
  7. Empower people to make technology work for them.
  8. Provide students of all ages with basic civic education and the skills to navigate online safely and responsibly.
  9. Reach across political divides.
  10. Encourage a commitment to a year of national service.

Each of these actions require a multi-step process that allow multiple sides to work on the forward progression of the media.

According to the report, in 1976, 72 percent of U.S. adults said they trusted the media to report news "fully, accurately and fairly." Now, that percent has declined to 41 percent.

Gutmann iterated that it's urgent that the media work to help people discern truthful news to fake news. She also said diversity among journalists and in the newsroom is another essential part of the media industry's success.

"We call on the media for speaking across multiple perspectives and for including the widest range of talent. Inclusive talent will both improve reporting and increase trust in the media across America," she added.

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