Don Heider and Michael Isip in Conversation on Ethics of News in the Age of Disinformation

Don Heider and Michael Isip in Conversation on Ethics of News in the Age of Disinformation


– Don, before anything else,
I wanna say on behalf of KQED how much we value the work. – Thank you.
– That you too. We are looking for deeper ways to collaborate with the Markkula Center. We’re working on a podcast actually. And Don and his team over the years, when it comes to the intersection
of technology, ethics, and morality, they have been one of our go to places. so I’m so grateful for the
work that you and your team do. – Thank you so much for those kind words. I’m a grumpy old journalist
(crowd laughs) and so I’ve lived in the
Bay Area for 18 months, and I’m a bit hypercritical of news media because of my background and I wanna say, and I was gonna say this before
you said those nice things. (crowd laughs) That I consider KQED the gold
standard for news and (murmur) (crowd clapping) – Thank you. I appreciate that, thank you. – So as you know, you may have noticed, we’re living in an age
where news and truth might be in some jeopardy. And so my first question for you tonight especially in your new role
as president of KQED is, in this age of fake news, some of it real fake news,
some of it claimed fake news, in this age of so much misinformation, has that changed the mission and the way you go about
what you do at KQED? – So, as a non-profit, non-commercial independent
media organization, we have a great mission. And that is simply to
provide the most trusted, highest quality content. Where, when, how you need it. But as you say, in an age of
fake news and disinformation, clearly there’s been an impact on partly speaking, trust in media. And if we’re being honest, some of this distress is self inflicted. Digital media has disrupted
the business model and commercial media in particular, they’ve been incentivized to really focus on scale and
reach and in eyeballs and ears. And so what we see is, sensational headlines
as opposed to context. as well as emotions over analysis. And one of the practical impacts is just the decline in trust. And in the thing that I worry about most in this moment of time is
people getting news fatigue, and just feeling powerless
to have any kind of an impact on what’s happening in the world and Father O’Brien and you were talking about existential questions, and over the last couple
years KQED we’ve talked about not only our mission
which is a great mission, but what is the essence of our mission, what is our higher purpose? And we’ve come up with
three very simple words. But, I think they’re very powerful words. And they are, inform,
inspire, and involve. And we picked those words
because an inform, inspired, involved citizenry, is the foundation of a healthy democracy, and a strong community. So inform. You talked about our news. It’s news coverage that’s
based on the highest principles of journalism. Facts, accuracy and that
magic word you said, Truth. Inspire, no matter what our coverage is, we don’t just do the
headlines or the breaking news and updates. We tell stories about human experience. And involve is all about, trust is the most important asset we have. What a leverage that trust so that people have a safe place whether
they’re calling in the forum, or they’re in our headquarters,
there’s a safe place so that they feel that they can be heard. And that they can have civil dialogue and that they can participate in democracy because by the way democracy
is not voting every four years. It’s an ongoing thing.
Participation in society. So our mission is the same but in this moment in time our focus is pretty clearly defined and it’s who we are and what we stand for. – Do you worry at all
about the fragmentation of your audience given the sort of fragmentation
of America right now? – You know I actually as a general rule try not to worry about
things that we can’t control. although it’s not true, have an 18 year old daughter who I don’t control and I
worry about all the time. (crowd laughs) But setting that aside, I mean audience fragmentation is a reality and it’s important to
understand why the audience is fragmented. And it’s simply the media
environment right now, you all know this, its,
there’s an abundance of content and abundance of choice. Washington Post, The Guardian,
they’re doing great content. Then there’s Netflix and
Amazon Prime and YouTube. And then there are new
players, new competitors, big, scary, competitors,
technology companies, like Apple. And we talk about this
all the time at KQED. Apple used to be about the computer and then it’s the iPod and then it’s the iPad
and now it’s Apple Music and Apple News and Apple
TV and Apple TV Plus, which by the way they
provide original programming. So this is an abundance of
content abundance of choice. So you all, because of this abundance, and the opportunity with technology, it’s impacting your behavior. And what we see is fairly obvious. Digital audiences are growing. 18 to 24 year olds, if they don’t listen to
live radio or watch live TV, they stream their content. So there’s this changing behavior. And I mentioned that because
it’s not the fragmentation that I worry about per say,
it’s really what we control and then what we control
as a media organization is how we change to better serve our
audience wants and needs. And in this world of abundance
of content and choice, how we differentiate the work
that we do from everything that’s out there. And that all circles back to
trust and quality content. – Do you think as journalists
we have a responsibility to bring people together? – I think in this moment
in time, absolutely. And you just teed me up for something that I need to lean in for a second because I was in DC a couple of weeks ago. And in January of this, of 2020, PBS is gonna celebrate
their 50th anniversary. But it was 53 years ago
that president Johnson LBJ, signed the public broadcasting act. We signed that act it
established PBS, NPR, and corporation for broadcasting. And what he talked about is
the vast wasteland of TV. And the fact that media can
be used for a force for good. And we have a competitive
advantage at KQED. We have television, radio, and online. We don’t think about
those things separately. I think there’s an incredible opportunity to combine all forms of
media video, audio and text. Especially in this moment of time if you talked about deep
division and polarization. Critical trusted information
is more important than ever before because trusted quality media
can stimulate curiosity, foster understanding, build community, and so we’re in the middle of
a renovation of our building and it’s a stunningly beautiful building. Amazing design. But the thing about the building is it’s where everything comes together. Media, technology, journalism and place. Where we can be more open and
accessible to the community. And that’s the heart of our new building. Is this place of trust where
we can bring people together. Not only connect with us but
connect with out journalists and our stories, but more importantly
connect with each other in this kind of forum, so you can have civil, civic dialogue. Maybe even spirited debate
but find common ground. So absolutely we have a responsibility to bring people together because right now the
stuff that’s out there is splitting people apart. And it is way too easy to say, just divide, polarize, and (murmur) I’m just
gonna stay over here. You gotta work at it to
bring people together. And we play a role in doing that. – I think you can see why we’re so excited to be a content partner with KQED. One of my top goals when
I arrived 18 months ago was to take Markkula
Center which is (murmur) it’s one of the largest most comprehensive applied
ethics centers in the world, and raise the awareness in the valley, across the country, internationally. And with partnerships
like this one with KQED I think we’ve got a good future ahead. Michael thank you so
much for being with us. – Thank you so much. (crowd applause)

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