Recent surveys show an erosion of public trust in the media; a significant portion of the American population does not trust the media.
The Quinnipiac University poll found that 52 percent of voters trusted the media more to “tell [them] the truth about important issues,” compared to 37 percent who trusted President Donald Trump more than the media.
The Fox News poll found that 45 percent trusted the Trump administration to tell the public the truth, compared to 42 percent who trusted the reporters covering the administration.
Loss of trust in the media is understandable in the wake of a highly polarized election, fake news or hoaxes on social media, and the constant barrage of accusations by Trump of mainstream media as peddling “fake news” or treating him “unfairly,” and attacking targeted media, like The New York Times, as “failing.”
It is the same Fake News Media that said there is “no path to victory for Trump” that is now pushing the phony Russia story. A total scam!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2017
Remember when the failing @nytimes apologized to its subscribers, right after the election, because their coverage was so wrong. Now worse!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2017
Given the current socio-political climate, is it possible to restore the public’s trust in the media? Can the public be educated to spot, and not trust or pass on, “fake news”?
The News Integrity Initiative
These are questions that will be answered by a new initiative headed by the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism (CUNY J-School) and its partners.
CUNY announced today that a global consortium of tech leaders, academic institutions, non-profit and others in the news trade are launching the News Integrity Initiative.
The News Integrity Initiative is committed to educating the public about the news they read and share online, increasing trust in journalism worldwide, and improving the ways in which journalists report and inform the public. Participants in the Initiative will conduct research, engage in special projects, and meet with industry experts.
Function & role
The News Integrity Initiative will be managed independently by the CUNY J-School under the guidance of the School’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism and its director Professor Jeff Jarvis. CUNY J-School will coordinate all the activities of the News Integrity Initiative, including research, special projects and events.
The News Integrity Initiative will hire a general manager, who will report directly to dean of the CUNY J-School Sarah Bartlett.
“By locating the News Integrity Initiative at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, our faculty and students will have a unique opportunity to engage with researchers and technologists, attend events and conduct experiments aimed at building greater trust in our profession,” Bartlett said in a statement.
“It’s hard to think of a more important role for a public graduate school of journalism.”
Dan Gillmor, author and professor at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, emphasizes that the change must come from the journalists themselves.
“Today’s announcement sends a strong signal that news literacy matters. We can’t upgrade only just the supply of news. We need to upgrade ourselves, to become better, more active media users, as consumers and creators,” Gillmor said in a statement.
Facebook is a key funder of the $14 million News Integrity Initiative.
The company found itself in the middle of a “fake news” controversy during last year’s heated election and took action to combat misinformation, including the introduction of the Facebook Journalism Project.
Campbell Brown, Facebook’s Head of News Partnerships, explained the company’s role in the News Integrity Initiative.
“As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we want to give people the tools necessary to be discerning about the information they see online,” Brown said in a statement.
Improving news literacy is a global concern, and this diverse group assembled by CUNY brings together experts from around the world to work toward building more informed communities.
Other contributors to the initial funds are the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Tow Foundation, AppNexus, Mozilla and Betaworks.
Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, spoke of the importance of trustworthy news.
“In high school U.S. history, I learned that a trustworthy press is the immune system of democracy,” Newmark said in a statement.
“As a news consumer, like most folks, I want news we can trust. That means standing up for trustworthy news media and learning how to spot clickbait and deceptive news.”
The New Integrity Initiative currently has 19 participants from around the globe:
- Arizona State University in the U.S.;
- Center for Community and Ethnic Media at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in the U.S.;
- Constructive Institute at Aarhus University in Denmark;
- Edelman based in the U.S.;
- European Journalism Centre in the Netherlands;
- Fundación Gabriel García Márquez para el Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (FNPI) based in Colombia;
- Hamburg Media School in Germany;
- Hans-Bredow-Institut in Germany;
- The Ida B. Wells Society in the U.S.;
- International Center for Journalists based in the U.S.;
- News Literacy Project based in the U.S.;
- Polis, London School of Economics in the U.K.;
- Ecole de Journalisme de Sciences Po (Sciences Po Journalism School) in France;
- The Society of Publishers in Asia based in Hong Kong;
- Trust Project based in the U.S.;
- Walkley Foundation in Australia;
- Weber Shandwick based in the U.S.;
- Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales; and
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Division for Freedom of Expression and Media Development headquartered in France.
These participants will be involved in fostering communication, hosting events, and presenting relevant research and projects for potential funding to the News Integrity Initiative.
Funding will be managed by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism Foundation, Inc., which will support CUNY J-School.
The News Integrity Initiative will be searching for additional funders and participants to meet its goals.
Susan Chu is a writer and editor who likes to write about trends in higher education.