FRIDAY, June 1 — Trust between the public and the media has “fractured,” the president and CEO of PBS said yesterday while visiting member station WKAR.
“In the last decade, the media industry has undergone tectonic shifts, with mergers and acquisitions resulting in a handful of conglomerates that have extraordinary influence on what consumers see, read and hear,” said Paula Kerger.
“But restoring is the operating word, because the long held compact between the public and media has fractured,” she said.
Kerger was in Michigan for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference, where she was the keynote speaker.
During her visit to WKAR, she emphasized that local public stations combined with media literacy is the way to restore confidence of the people in the media.
“The solution to this problem of distrust is not a simple one, but people also need to understand the consequences of talking about the media in a disparaging way, because it is fundamental to who we are as Americans,” she said.
At a time when polls show only a third of America believes in the institutions of media, PBS has proven to be the outlier, she said. Thirty percent of Americans believe that PBS is the most trustworthy organization, leaving behind commercial cable news, newspaper publishing companies and even the courts of law, she added.
With all the information swirling in the digital space, it is harder to be well-informed, and harder to discern fact from fiction, she said.
The concept of media literacy, which is relevant for children and also the adult population, can help with this problem, said Kerger.
“People trust us with the most important and precious part of their life, their children,” she said.
In her keynote address on Mackinac Island, she highlighted PBS member station KQED in San Francisco, which developed a certification to help educators across the country improve media literacy analysis and evaluation among their students. This is being made available to every classroom across the country.
Focusing on early education has both a moral and economic imperative for PBS, added Kerger. During her tenure, PBS began 24-hour programming for children. Kerger is PBS’ longest serving chief executive.
“I didn’t intend to be in this job for as long as I had but the work has just continued to evolve and so much is changing that I am still as excited as I was 12 and a half years ago when I first stepped into the role.”