The Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy

December 21, 2018  • Communications and Society Program

As 2018 comes to a close, the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program invites you to join us as we celebrate and reflect over an exciting year marked by thoughtful, constructive discussions on a range of issues. The following “2018 Year In Review” series offers highlights from the various programs as well as insight into 2019 programming. For more information, please visit our homepage and/or follow us on Twitter or Facebook

Knight Commission public meeting in San Francisco, CA in January 2018.

Knight Commission public meeting in San Francisco, CA in January 2018.Trust in American democratic institutions has steadily declined for decades due in large part to a rapidly changing information environment. Without trust, democracy cannot function.  To address this, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program launched the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy. For over a year and a half, this diverse, nonpartisan commission of 27 leaders in government, media, business, non-profits, education and the arts examined the collapse in trust in the democratic institutions. The charge of the Commission was to:

  • Understand the causes and consequences of a collapse in trust in democratic institutions, with a focus on trust in the media, journalism, and the information ecosystem.
  • Identify the perennial and emerging values and social obligations that should guide those who produce, distribute and consume news and information to ensure a functioning democracy.
  • Develop new thinking and solutions around rebuilding trust.

To achieve these goals, the Commission traveled to five cities across America to speak with experts in technology, government, non-profits and academia. These experts, including Colin Crowell, Tristan Harris, Tim O’Reilly, Sally Lehrman, Claire Wardle, Craig Silverman, and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam among others, provided testimony on the characteristics of a healthy media ecosystem, government’s responsibility in the role in protecting trust, new business models, and the impact of technology platforms on journalism. They also heard from citizens across the nation who provided valuable insights on the issue through comments at public events and on the Commission’s Medium site.

The bold, nonpartisan recommendations of the Commission are included a forthcoming report titled, “A Crisis in Democracy: Renewing Trust in America.”  The report includes creative solutions for restoring trust in journalism, strengthening democracy through technology and revitalizing citizenship in the digital age. The recommendations are rooted in a set of values and embrace the themes of responsibility, transparency, diversity and innovation.  It creates a compass for the Commission’s ultimate goal: to help revitalize our democracy.

The Commission will release its report on February 5, 2019 at the Aspen Institute headquarters in Washington, D.C.  If you are interested in attending the event, please contact For more information on the Commission and its report, please visit Regular updates from the Commission and a public engagement forum can be found on the Commission’s Medium site.