Knight Foundation announces major Trust, Media and Democracy initiative to build a stronger future for journalism – Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation announces major Trust, Media and Democracy initiative to build a stronger future for journalism

Seven projects focused on improving trust in journalism, increasing news engagement to receive $2.5 million

MIAMI – Sept. 25, 2017 – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced a major initiative to support the role of strong, trusted journalism as essential to a healthy democracy.

The initiative is anchored by the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy, a panel of thinkers and doers from diverse backgrounds committed to creating more informed and engaged communities. This nonpartisan commission (participants list below) will explore  causes for the erosion of trust in democratic institutions, in particular the press. It will also identify new thinking and solutions around rebuilding trust.

The Knight Commission will be chaired by Jamie Woodson, executive chairman and CEO of Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education, and Tony Marx, president of The New York Public Library, the largest public library in the nation and the most used library system in the world. It will be run by the Aspen Institute, with $2 million in support from Knight.

The initiative also includes the Knight Prototype Fund, which fosters accurate information in media and announced a new round of winners in June 2017, and Newsmatch, a partnership with Democracy Fund to support nonprofit news and investigative news outlets with matching grants during the end-of-year giving period; Newsmatch was initially launched by Knight in December 2016. Knight plans to build on the initiative further with the help of the commission and other partners.

“Internet is potentially the greatest democratizing tool in history, but it is also democracy’s greatest challenge,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. “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.”

Combining big picture thinking with immediate action, the initiative also features more than $2.5 million in new funding to seven projects aimed at improving trust in news and building stronger connections between journalists and their audiences.

“The challenges posed by rising mistrust in media and the rampant spread of misinformation in the digital age raise urgent concerns about the future of journalism. These projects aim to bring communities and journalists closer together, and help create long-term solutions to the problem of misinformation,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism.

The projects include:

Cortico | $900,000 | Twitter: corticoAI | Cambridge, Massachusetts: The 2016 election underscored the need to better listen to the voices of people who have gone unheard, to 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 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 | Twitter: @ReportersLab | Durham, North Carolina: 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 | Twitter: @shorensteinctr | Cambridge, Massachusetts: 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 | Twitter: @AP | New York: Funding will help 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 use 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 or regional fact-checking project.

Reynolds Journalism Institute | $100,000 | Twitter: @rji and @mayerjoy | Columbia, Missouri: 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 | Twitter: @journethics, @_trustproject | Santa Clara, California: 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 will also 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 | Twitter: @JeffersonCtr, @YourVoiceOhio | St. Paul, Minnesota: 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 Ohio. 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.

The first meeting of the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy will be held on Oct. 12 at New York Public Library; they will be meeting in locations across the country during the next year. Commissioners come from a range of backgrounds and expertise, and their work will last just over a year. Complementing the commission’s plan to engage the community in solution building, Ibargüen is in Detroit this week to engage with media professionals and community members on the future of local news.

Knight has formed influential commissions in the past. The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy met in 2008-2009 and produced a report that helped shape Federal Communications Commission policy on broadband internet access. Formed in 1989, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has been the leading voice for the interests of student-athletes in major university athletics programs. Both of those commissions were also run by the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas.

The commission members include: 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 and chairman, Kickstarter; Nonny De La Peña, founder and CEO, Emblematic Group; Richard Edelman, CEO, 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, CEO, Primer; 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, S.C. 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, political commentator; Jonathan Zittrain, faculty director, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society Harvard University.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit

About the Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

Contact: Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, [email protected]