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Penn President Amy Gutmann is one of the 27 members of The Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy.

Credit: Eric Zeng

The Knight Commission on Trust, Media, and Democracy, of which Penn President Amy Gutmann is a member, released a new report on restoring public faith in news corporations. 

The Knight Commission, a group of 27 leaders selected by the Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute, published “Crisis in Democracy: Renewing Trust in America,” on Feb. 5. The report urges journalists and technology companies to increase transparency and promote civic engagement. 

The report lays out multiple strategies for media organizations to adopt, including establishing clear distinctions between fact-based articles, opinion pieces, and advertisements. It also recommends supporting local journalism, establishing industry-wide guidelines for promoting transparency, and increasing diversity of journalists so they can better reflect the communities they cover. 

A September 2018 Gallup poll found levels of confidence in the news have shrunk for the majority of American adults, including nine in 10 Republicans. The poll cited inaccuracy, bias, and lack of transparency as three major issues that respondents had with the current state of the media. 

Gutmann and the rest of the Knight Commission spent 18 months researching the causes of this widespread public distrust. The report also indicates technology companies and social media services need to do more to combat misinformation, as they are "information fiduciaries with duties to the user." It urges companies to be more transparent about the source and sponsorship of online content and the role algorithms play in distributing it. 

Beyond the media industry, the report urges schools to teach digital literacy and promote civic engagement. 

“[The free press] is as basic a value as self-governance itself, and it must be preserved," the report stated. "We are unanimous that a free press is not, and must not be seen as, the enemy of the people." 

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