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Levine Museum CEO & Historian Present at Knight Foundation Conference


The following post was written by Kathryn Hill, President & CEO, and recaps Levine Museum's recent participation at the Knight Foundation's conference. 

Last week, Brenda Tindal and I had the privilege of participating in the Knight Foundation’s tenth annual Media Learning Seminar, a gathering of media professionals and community foundation leaders from throughout the country. The Knight Foundation’s mission is to support the development of informed, just, and inclusive communities, and through this annual gathering, the Knight Foundation invites participants to share stories and exchange ideas about how to foster meaningful civic engagement through philanthropic partnerships between community leaders and the media. 

Media outlets from the New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and The Federalist to smaller, online publications like Digger and Inside Climate News sent remarkable speakers.  Content ranged from climate change to community/police relations to what the future will look like in a world without algorithmic accountability. In session after session, however, the discussions centered around ‘fake news’ – where it comes from, how it proliferates, why the media have lost credibility with the American public, and how the media should respond. The sense of urgency in these discussions was palpable.  Fake news – the perception of fake news -- destroys trust, and without trust, communities disengage and disintegrate. 

A series of prescriptions for re-building trust and re-establishing credibility for the media emerged from these discussions. Organizations that are not good listeners are not good communicators. Organizations cannot engage communities if they do not ask community members to participate, to respond to content, and to voice criticism. Organizations whose processes are opaque and who assume the voice of unassailable authority simply will not successfully engage, or enlighten anyone other than those who already agree.   Interestingly, these are lessons that many museums have learned and internalized years ago, which is why our exhibits are informed by audience research, why we involve community members in the creation of exhibits, and why we ensure our exhibits and programs invite response and feedback. 

Brenda and I were invited to the Media Learning Seminar to participate on a panel about how the arts and culture can enhance civic engagement and to speak specifically about K(NO)W Justice K(NO)W Peace.  At that time, the exhibit had yet to open, and in the days following the conference, we would learn much more about how our audiences respond to this exhibit and about the voices we have yet to incorporate into the dialogue. But our contention was then – and remains -- that an understanding of history provides the foundation for dialogue about the present.  And it is through genuine dialogue that we may begin to re-build trust. This is our antidote to fake news.