The trust problem isn’t new

In 2018, we’ll commit to working hard to earn the trust of our audiences every single day — I hope, anyway. Here’s what else I hope: that in doing so, we’ll commit to working just as hard to avoid centering a few loud voices at the expense of others. This year, we’ve frequently seen our leaders, from the president on down, discourage trust in news media. Recent surveys suggest it’s had an impact. But the reality is that many people — take African Americans and Muslims, as examples — have long had reason to be skeptical of our industry’s ability and, frankly, desire to reflect their lives and their communities fairly, with accuracy and nuance. And they’ve been telling us that. If we lose sight of them in our panic over where we find ourselves today, we risk flattening critical differences between the reasons for distrust, and correspondingly, actions we can take to address it. Worse, we risk abandoning our efforts as soon as the political winds shift. We’ve come a long way from the days of viewing our audiences as a monolith, with a singular set of concerns. Let’s not go back to that in 2018.

Umbreen Bhatti is the director of the KQED Lab, the northern California public media organization’s innovation lab.

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