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You’re more likely to believe fake news shared by someone you barely know than by your best friend
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Sept. 25, 2017, 6 a.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   September 25, 2017

A lot more resources are going into addressing the problem of the American public’s withering trust in media institutions.

The Knight Foundation is doling out $2.55 million in new funding to support major projects at seven different organizations, ranging from the Duke University Reporter’s Lab to Harvard’s Shorenstein Center (where First Draft News will newly be based) to the Associated Press. (Disclosure: Knight is a supporter of Nieman Lab.) Knight has also put together a large panel of familiar names from the media to academia to tackle declining public trust in the press and other democratic institutions, with an additional $2 million in support. The Knight Commission, as the foundation is calling it, will be run by the Walter Isaacson-led D.C. think tank the Aspen Institute; members include Frontline’s Raney Aronson-Rath, BuzzFeed’s Shani Hilton, political scientist Francis Fukuyama, Google’s Richard Gingras, and Trump friend and interpreter NewsMax CEO Chris Ruddy. (The full list Commission members is included below.)

“One of the hopes is that the commission will help inform policy decisions, funding decisions, grant-making decisions — and inform the public about what might be potential solutions to address the falling trust in our society in major democratic institutions,” Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism, said. The Commission convenes for the first time next month at the New York Public Library — part of that meeting will be open to the public — and will regroup several other times throughout the coming year.

This new Knight Commission and the funding going to these seven projects is part of Knight’s new Trust, Media, and Democracy initiative, an umbrella initiative that now officially includes the Knight Prototype Fund focused on combating misinformation, as well as the Newsmatch initiative, a grant-matching program for the year-end campaigns of nonprofit newsrooms.

The Trust, Media, and Democracy initiative is a doubling down of investments the Knight Foundation has made in the past year that have all grappled with the issue of declining trust: It’s funded more research, helped convene conferences like Misinfocon, and supporting immediate development of projects such as Indiana University’s Hoaxy Bot-o-Meter.

(The Knight Foundation, with a host of other funders, is also a supporter of the separate News Integrity Initiative spearheaded by CUNY’s graduate school of journalism.)

“What are a series of things we can do to help address concerns around the flow of accurate news and information today? One component was, let’s see who has good ideas — the Prototype Fund. Another approach is our traditional grant-making — identifying people and projects who are advancing the practice of journalism in this area. Thirdly, we have been commissioning a diverse array of scholars to do research in this area,” Preston said. “Finally, we now have the Commission. It’s important to assemble people from inside and outside journalism, business leaders to technology leaders, scholars and researchers, to identify questions and concerns so that we’re not just making decisions based on our assumptions of the answers — because we don’t know the answers.”

Knight Commission members

Co-Chairs: Tony Marx, President, The New York Public Library; Jamie Woodson, executive chairman and CEO State Collaborative On Reforming Education

Commissioners: Raney Aronson-Rath, Executive Producer, FRONTLINE PBS; Meredith Artley, senior vice president and editor in chief, CNN Digital; Perry Chen, founder, Kickstarter; Nonny De La Peña, founder and chief executive officer, Emblematic Group; Richard Edelman, chief executive officer, Edelman Public Relations; Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini senior fellow and Mosbacher director, Center for Democracy,  Development and Rule of Law Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University; Theaster Gates, founder, Rebuild Foundation; Richard Gingras, vice president, news, Google; Sean Gourley, chief executive officer,; Amy Gutmann, president, University of Pennsylvania; Shani Hilton, head of US News, Buzzfeed; Alberto Ibargüen, President, Knight Foundation; Walter Isaacson, president and CEO, The Aspen Institute; Fisk Johnson, executive chairman and CEO, SC Johnson; Joanne Lipman, chief content officer, Gannett and editor-in- chief, USA TODAY; Nuala O’Connor, president and CEO, Center for Democracy & Technology; Eduardo Padrón, president, Miami Dade College; Eduardo Peñalver, Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law, Cornell Law School; Deb Roy, director, Laboratory for Social Machines and professor of media arts and sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab; Chris Ruddy, founder, NewsMax; John Thornton, founder, Texas Tribune; Anthea Watson Strong, product manager for news, Facebook; Charlie Sykes; Jonathan Zittrain, faculty director, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society Harvard University.

The seven organizations receiving funding:

Cortico | $900,000: The 2016 election underscored the need to better listen to the voices of people who have gone unheard, tell their stories and to develop a deeper understanding of a public sphere fragmented by digital technologies and political polarization. Cortico, a new nonprofit led by Deb Roy of the Laboratory for Social Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will build out a platform to address these issues, helping newsrooms surface and tell stories that resonate across this fragmented landscape to foster trust, empathy and common ground. Building on its expertise in social media analytics, Cortico will extend its platform to include multiple data sources (national news, syndicated/local talk radio, local news/forums, Wikipedia, survey panels) and to incorporate content and conversations at a local level.

Duke University Reporters’ Lab | $800,000: The Duke University Reporters’ Lab will launch the Duke Tech & Check Cooperative, an innovation hub designed to expand the network of organizations building fact-checking tools for journalists and the public. The Lab will develop and deploy new tools to help journalists find and identify claims made by public figures, and analyze their accuracy. In addition, the project team will expand the Share the Facts database to develop new apps that provide consumers with live fact-checking. The Lab will also track automation projects focused on addressing misinformation around the world and host regular meetups, webinars and an annual Tech & Check meeting to connect innovators working in this growing field. The lab also announced additional funding from Facebook today.

President and Fellows of Harvard College | $250,000: Funding will support First Draft, a research and learning lab now a part of the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. The network includes more than 100 organizations to help newsrooms, academics, fact-checkers and technology companies collaborate and encourage real-time verification of news events. The lab will increase support and training for the news industry by building a team of researchers and graduate students who will track and test different ways of responding to misinformation. It will develop online resources for students, newsrooms and citizens to recognize and combat misinformation.

Associated Press | $245,000: Funding will help to increase the news organization’s ability to debunk misinformation by doubling its resources from two to four full-time staff dedicated to fact checking. The Associated Press will work with its member news organizations and customers (more than 15,000 news outlets) to integrate local news fact checks into its consumer facing platforms for the first time. They will apply data and automation and experiment with new storytelling formats to better understand the kinds of information people trust. Associated Press members and customers will get access to training on best practices for fact checks through the organization’s Definitive Source webinar. They will also experiment with building trust on the local level by providing training, best practices and support for at least one local regional fact checking project.

Reynolds Journalism Institute | $100,000: Support will help grow the institute’s Trusting News project, which develops news engagement experiments and trains journalists on ways to increase trust with their audiences. The project, directed by Joy Mayer, relies on audience feedback and uses in-depth research to design news innovations. It has already helped hundreds of journalists in 44 newsrooms across the country. Knight funding will help it expand to more news organizations and create a training program for journalists focused on concrete strategies to identify audience preferences and finding new ways to connect. Learn more and apply to get involved at

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics | $100,000: The center’s Trust Project is developing open-source software toolkits to help newsrooms convey their commitment to ethics, independence and inclusive, accurate reporting to the public. The toolkits will include content management system plug-ins for eight trust indicators (i.e. best practices, type of work, author/producer info) that provide visual cues and clear information to help people assess fact-based digital news and sort it from misinformation. The tools also will provide curators of digital journalism like Google and Facebook with consistent signals via associated metatags in The Trust Project is partnering with newsrooms large and small to create and test the plug-ins and other software to support both the user experience and data layer behind the trust indicators.

Jefferson Center | $75,000: The Center’s Your Voice Ohio project will help strengthen connections between local newsrooms and their communities in Akron, Ohio and other news organizations across the state. It will advance experiments in engaged journalism, an emerging field that examines the changing relationship between news providers and consumers and explores new ways to attract audience attention. Participating newsrooms will test and adapt approaches to better serve their communities, determining the best fit with their newsrooms. Lessons in engaged journalism will be hosted on the Knight-funded platform, Gather, housed at the University of Oregon’s Center for Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement. The center also announced additional funding from Democracy Fund today.

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