Thanks for joining us! The goal of this blog is to inform you about the work of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust, which is a part of the Media, Communications and Journalism Department at Fresno State. This dynamic department is nationally recognized, with an award-winning faculty committed to giving students real-world educational experiences where they can thrive in their chosen fields. We are delighted to be part of MCJ as we launch the Institute for Media and Public Trust.

We also want to thank the College of Arts and Humanities for its support of the Institute. Dean Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval was instrumental as the idea for this project began to evolve, and his encouragement and guidance made it happen. President Joseph Castro also supported the concept from the start and allowed us to launch the Institute early to allow us to begin studying the real-time issues facing the news business and society in these divisive times. He saw our vision of the Institute being a solutions-oriented voice in California on media and trust issues.

I have been in the news business for almost five decades and I have seen firsthand the huge changes in our industry, not only from a technological standpoint, but also in the growing mistrust by many of what is being produced by news outlets. That isn’t good, as too many news consumers are left to choose the “news” that fits their political philosophy. Many are being duped by fake news, and we are offering tips on how to spot phony news content.

This distrust of media, and most other major institutions, has many major negative consequences in our society, including a lack of civic engagement in our democracy. We see that in low voter turnout at our elections and the lack of participation by our citizenry at school board meetings and when major decisions are being made at City Hall.

We are not going to just talk about the problems, we will also seek ways to resolve these issues. We will bring in all sides on these complex issues, and find solutions by doing deep-dive research into what’s driving the divisiveness, and then make solid recommendations. We don’t buy into the narrative that this problem is too big to solve.

The Institute already has begun studying news literacy, fake news and the problems created when too many news consumers don’t trust media outlets. We plan to hold seminars, and involve the public in these issues, with the ultimate goal of bridging the trust gap and giving news consumers the skills to help them navigate in a rapidly changing media environment.

We will hold one of our first forums in September on free speech on a college campus and the related issues such as academic freedom, tenure and collective bargaining. The forum will be co-sponsored by the Provost’s Office, the Academic Senate at Fresno State, and the College of Arts and Humanities. Subsequent programs will delve into the “trust” issue that has many news consumers at odds with the media outlets that bring them their news.

We also are working with local schools in helping them create study modules for high school students on news literacy and related issues.

All of our work will be guided by the First Amendment. We believe strongly that a well-informed citizenry will improve civic engagement and participation in our democracy.

We will be talking a lot about ethics, values and transparency as we look for solutions to the mistrust that is so prevalent today in all of our institutions. We will be seeking common ground as we look for ways to bridge the trust gap.

You will be hearing from traditional media and media outlets from across the political spectrum. Digital sites and social media will also be a big part of our work, as we attempt to take the broadest view of the issues that impact the news that the public consumes in the 21st century.

We welcome everyone’s participation, and believe that the more partners we have, the stronger our work will be. You will be hearing more about how you can get involved as we move forward with the Institute.

I am thrilled to be the first executive director of the Media Institute, and I pledge to you that we will be working together to improve media literacy, fight fake news and rebuild trust in the news media.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton