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Cox addresses lack of public trust in media at luncheon

By Kelcie Hartley - | May 20, 2022

Kelcie Hartley, Daily Herald

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox read quotes from "A Time to Build" discussing the public's lack of faith in institutions at the Utah Press Association in Murray on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Gov. Spencer Cox discussed trust in institutions at an annual Utah Press Association gathering Friday held in the Deseret Star Playhouse.

“I just want to thank the incredible journalists we have in Utah,” said Cox. “There are a few exceptions, but we have some of the most professional journalists in the world. It is an honor to work with them, and I do see our work as the work of the people.”

Cox referred to himself as an institutionalist, sharing his concerns about the current lack of trust from the public in the nation’s institutions — specifically journalism and government.

“It’s no secret that there is a crisis of trust happening within the journalistic community and the public,” he said. “Certainly, it was exacerbated in the 2016 election when the president routinely attacked the media. He often referred to the media as an enemy to the people, and I disagree with that, but I don’t think he created something. I think he capitalized on something that had been an issue for a long time.”

Cox said trust in journalism wasn’t the only institution that has fallen in public view, naming politics, religion and volunteer organizations, as a few. He also discussed how society has, over time, drifted from these institutions supporting each other to individuals focused on self-promotion. His example for self-promotion being former President Donald Trump and the rise of “Trumpism” in the Republican party.

“He was not the first to do that, and I’d even argue he was better at it than others,” Cox said.

Cox brought with him “A Time to Build” by Yuval Leavin, and read a passage surrounding how social media changed the perceptions of journalists.

“Even reporters from international newspapers and television networks, whose formal work is subjected to layers of editing and verification, now have a place on Twitter and other social media platforms offering both reporting and commentary on an online basis,” Cox read. “This makes it hard to distinguish the work from individuals from the work of institutions.”

A member of the audience asked what can journalists do to best respond to misinformation?

The governor gave a two-part reply, stating that trust is a combination of competence and ethics — both of which are needed to combat misinformation.

“We need to always do things the right way and not publish information we aren’t sure is true,” he added. “The second part of that is when we do make mistakes, we admit to it very quickly, and we own up to it. The problem the media has is when you get something wrong, everyone sees it. When you try to fix it, almost no one sees it. If we do those things most people will trust us is my hope.”

He ended with his belief that society couldn’t survive without politicians and journalists. Without the work of dedicated public servants.

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