Fresno State has established the Institute for Media and Public Trust to study media literacy and "fake news," and develop strategies to restore trust in all forms of media.
The first executive director of the new institute will be former Fresno Bee executive editor Jim Boren.
Fresno State President Joseph Castro said the First Amendment will be at the center of the institute's work.
"The Institute will study the current state of newsgathering and reporting and develop solutions to the challenge of credibility in the news media, its impact on voters and their participation in our democratic institutions," Castro said. "It will also examine how social media networks impact these issues."
The institute will be housed in the Department of Media, Communications and Journalism in the College of Arts and Humanities.
"Media distrust has been going on for many decades, but the intensity increased after the 2016 election," Boren said. "The public is clamoring for solutions, and media outlets across the board are looking for strategies to rebuild public trust."
Boren joined the department's faculty this spring as an adjunct instructor to teach advanced journalism courses. He will continue to teach as well as lead the institute.
"Jim is the perfect person to head up this important effort," said Professor Betsy Hays, the incoming chair of the department. "His commitment to top-notch journalism has been unwavering for more than four decades, and this is the ideal way for him to continue his legacy. Jim is an alumnus of our program, which makes this full-circle effort even more meaningful."
Initial funding for the Institute for Media and Public Trust comes from the university. Additional fundraising in underway. Ultimately, the Institute will be self-sustaining via grants and donations from individuals and organizations.
Castro said one of the institute’s first programs will deal with freedom of speech. Seminars will discuss the First Amendment on college campuses in the age of social media, and how it relates to academic freedom, tenure and employment law.
The sessions will also grapple with the notion of civility in public discussions, including the core question, "How can we disagree passionately, yet respectfully?"
A key goal of the institute is to increase media literacy among news consumers.
"Increased media literacy is paramount to a thriving democracy," said Saúl Jimenez-Sandoval, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. "The Institute will partner with organizations with a wide range of diverse perspectives to take a holistic approach to providing news consumers with the tools they need to evaluate legitimacy and accuracy."
In addition, the institute will focus on identifying best practices in journalism that garner public trust
The institute will also work with news organizations to increase the transparency of the news-gathering process, with a goal of increasing the public’s trust in all forms of journalism.
It will offer undergraduate curriculum, professional development programs, workshops and panels in areas of journalism, consuming media, media literacy, civic engagement and other endeavors.
Each fall semester, it will award a minimum of $10,000 in research grants.
Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold