Opinion

At UNC, a $25M investment to foster media trust

Integrity. Impartiality. Fairness. Values that we believe build trust.

A recent Gallup poll shows that newspapers and television news both rank near the bottom in public confidence among important American institutions. A partisan tone has become common in influential media. There is a pervasive public perception of bias in the news.

The need for reliable information and trusted media is greater now than ever before. The erosion of confidence is not only a serious threat to the news industry, it also weakens our democracy.

In order to claim the powerful role promised in our nation’s Constitution, citizens need clear, accurate and meaningful information from sources they can trust. To serve that promise, our country’s journalists and media organizations operate under the honor, responsibility and protection of the First Amendment.

A $25 million gift by the Hussman family to journalism and media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is an investment in the future of North Carolina, recognizing our shared commitment to values like truth-seeking, transparency and accuracy.

This is a critical moment in a turbulent time – when digital dislocation and new economic realities challenge our industry. It is a time to hold close the guiding principles that transcend any given moment.

We embrace the values that underpin journalism’s role in American democracy. These values must be instilled and reinforced every day. They are values that must inspire news leaders of tomorrow.

In recognition of that belief, these core values are published daily in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and will be etched in stone at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. The future of our industry and strength of our democracy depend on restoring the public’s trust, and we believe these core values are essential to that pursuit.

Impartiality means reporting, editing, and delivering the news honestly, fairly, objectively, and without personal opinion or bias.

• Credibility is the greatest asset of any news medium, and impartiality is the greatest source of credibility.

• To provide the most complete report, a news organization must not just cover the news, but uncover it. It must follow the story wherever it leads, regardless of any preconceived ideas on what might be most newsworthy.

• The pursuit of truth is a noble goal of journalism. But the truth is not always apparent or known immediately. Journalists’ role is therefore not to determine what they believe at that time to be the truth and reveal only that to their readers, but rather to report as completely and impartially as possible all verifiable facts so that readers can, based on their own knowledge and experience, determine what they believe to be the truth.

• When a newspaper delivers both news and opinions, the impartiality and credibility of the news organization can be questioned. To minimize this as much as possible there needs to be a sharp and clear distinction between news and opinion, both to those providing and consuming the news.

Walter Hussman is the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Susan King is dean of the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
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