In my work I think a lot about the relationship between truth and trust. How you need trust to get to truth. Especially the kinds of deep down truth that each of us carries a piece of, that we need stronger conversations to access and share. When I was a daily journalist, I felt like I was constantly chasing truth. Now, I get a chance to try (and try hard!) to get a better grip on what it takes to build trust. I’ve just been named the inaugural McGurn Fellow for Media Integrity and the Fight Against Disinformation at the University of Florida (woo-hoo!), and I am overwhelmed by what’s ahead. I’m going to work with scholars there to chase down knowledge about how curiosity opens up new channels to trust — questions based on my work and everything I’m learning from conversations across the political divide.
The fellowship is partly run by UF’s Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology, which they called a “moonshot” initiative when it kicked off in 2020. And no wonder. Putting our trust in something as potentially manipulative as media to give us truth, or in something as potentially alienating as technology to plug us in, should be a big ask at a time as turbulent as this.
And I’m convinced that it’s an impossible ask unless we do the much more basic work of building trust with each other.
Everyone wants to go big these days. I think we go big by going (supposedly) small, by working on each relationship in this organic, messy web that keeps us tied together despite our differences and makes us stronger because of them. It requires getting close, taking risks. And it isn’t about some far off think tank or industry. It’s about each of us. It has to be.