Aspen Ideas Festival: Rebuilding trust in media

At this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, Kitty Boone, vice president of public programs at the Aspen Institute, asked three national media leaders why trust in the news has eroded — and what media organizations can do to win it back. On the panel were Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic; Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC News and Samantha Barry, editor in chief of Glamour.
The Aspen Institute

Americans continue to give the media low marks when it comes to trust.

At this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, Kitty Boone, vice president of public programs at the Aspen Institute, asked three national media leaders why trust in the news has eroded — and what media organizations can do to win it back.

Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, highlighted a sea change he’s seen in the worldviews of a great deal of Americans: Many simply no longer believe in the “Enlightenment values” of reason and empirical investigation, Goldberg said.

Noah Oppenheim, president of NBC News, made clear that when it comes to the causes of this mistrust, the media is not free of fault: “Whenever trust breaks down in a relationship, each party played a role in that.”

Oppenheim said that mistakes in news coverage, such as bad polling and the sensationalism of investigations into former President Donald Trump’s activities, were a factor that contributed to widespread mistrust.

How can the media work to rebuild trust? Oppenheim and Goldberg recommended the industry be more transparent about its mistakes and advocate for itself.

Oppenheim and Goldberg also agreed with Samantha Barry, editor in chief of Glamour magazine, that greater diversity in newsrooms across all dimensions — racial, socioeconomic, geographical — is key to producing better coverage and developing trust

National media can’t just observe stories across the U.S. from a place of remove, Barry said: “Newsrooms and media organizations have to be set up where there are people in those places telling those stories from all different types of diversity.”

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