Frequently Asked Questions of the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy

Q: How was the Commission created? What was the impetus for creating it?

A:  Trust in American democratic institutions has steadily declined for decades due in large part to a rapidly changing information ecosystem. Without trust, democracy cannot function.  To address this, the Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute developed the idea and decided to collaborate on the project. The two organizations first started working together in the early 2000’s looking at the future of journalism and journalistic values.

Q: Why did the Knight Foundation invest $2.0 million into such a broad, open-ended topic?

A:  Quoting Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the Knight Foundation: “Internet is potentially the greatest democratizing tool in history, but it is also democracy’s greatest challenge. By offering access to information that can support any position and confirm any bias, internet has eroded trust in the everyday facts we once shared. This initiative aims to help society grapple with that challenge. Based on the way humanity has grappled with similar disruptions in the past, I’m optimistic.”

Q: Who are your Commissioners?

A:  The Commission is comprised of 27 leaders from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, committed to understanding both the causes and consequences of the growing distrust in democracy institutions.

Q: Why did you choose Tony Marx and Jamie Woodson as co-chairs?

A:  The organizers wanted knowledgeable, fair, and forward-thinking leaders who are open to new ideas.  Both are leaders whose qualities complement each other.  Tony Marx leads one of nation’s largest library systems and is responsible for strengthening the New York City Library’s role as an essential provider of educational resources and opportunities for all ages.  Jamie Woodson has been at the forefront of Tennessee student achievement efforts for more than 20 years. She has led numerous civic efforts as a Speaker Pro Tem and Chairman of the Senate Education Committee for the Tennessee General Assembly and as the former executive chairman and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE).

Q: How did you do your research and gather information?

A:  The Commission held five in-person public meetings and forums across the nation where they heard from informed citizens, industry experts and governments.  They gathered public input and testimony via the Internet and also discussed issues and recommendations on an ongoing basis.  The Commission was also aided by advisors from academics, policy makers, and community and business leaders.

Q: How often did the Commission meet?

A:  The first official Commission meeting was held on October 12, 2017, in New York City at the New York Public Library. Subsequent public meetings were hosted in Palo Alto, California; Miami, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Racine Wisconsin.

Q: Who informed your decisions? Did you ask for public input?

A:  In addition to the knowledge base of the Commissioners themselves and informal advisors, the Commission provided numerous opportunities and methods – including public meetings and the Internet – to collect general public input to inform its decisions and recommendations. Gallup conducted a 20,000-person survey on media use and attitudes, on behalf of Knight Foundation, that also informed the Commission’s work.

Q: Is the government involved in the creation of this Commission?

A:  No.

Q: Is the Commission non-partisan?

A:  Absolutely. The Commission is comprised of a diverse group of Commissioners who agree that trust is paramount to a flourishing democracy.  It includes commissioners from both major political parties and people without affiliation.

Q: Who do your recommendations affect? Businesses? Media? Local governments?

A:  The recommendations aim to help media industry leaders, citizens and government officials better understand the causes and consequences of a collapse in trust in democratic institutions, such as the media.

Q: When do you plan to publish recommendations?

A:  The report launch will take place on February 5, 2019 you can RSVP here.

Q: Did you collaborate with other interest groups / organizations / communities?

A:  Yes. The only way to be well-informed is to reach out to other experts in the field who have tried approaches that work and don’t work.