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About the Knight Commission

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 in early 2017. For over a year, this nonpartisan commission of 27 leaders in government, media, business, non-profits, education and the arts examined the collapse in trust in the democratic institutions of the media, journalism and the information ecosystem, and developed new thinking and solutions around rebuilding trust.

The Commission’s charge was to:

  • Examine 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.

The scope of the Commission’s work included the following:

  • What is contributing to the collapse in trust in major media and journalism institutions as key components of our democracy?
  • How do citizens in our democracy experience issues of truth and fact today? How do they perceive current sources of information?
  • How is a rapidly changing technology landscape influencing the information ecosystem, including the distribution and consumption of news and information in the public interest?
  • What are the responsibilities and social obligations of institutions who produce, distribute and consume information to support a functioning democracy? What does an effective information ecosystem - including the role of journalism - look like in a functioning democracy?

The result of their work is reflected in this report. The Commission recommends specific actions to restore trust in media and in democracy. They are intended for an American future that promotes knowledge of the country’s democratic heritage, encourages a willingness to engage in local civic activities, and supports an array of inclusive institutions in government, media, business and civil society at all levels. The Commission sees vibrant and responsible journalism serving the goal of self-government and holding the powerful accountable, and a world where new forms of communication enhance rather than diminish a healthy democracy.