At CTMT, we’re painfully aware of the crisis in media and technology that is driving us apart, contributing to a culture of distrust and contention that puts our very democracy at risk. Much of the focus has centered on journalism – “fake news,” concerns about bias, a focus on conflict.
But we also understand that the trust crisis isn’t only a news problem. Our daily lives are governed by the tyranny of the algorithm, whispering to us constantly through our social media and smart devices. Often, the messages appeal to our most visceral emotions. The economic incentives for speaking to those impulses are powerful: Disharmony is profitable.
The Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology was born of the realization that the trust crisis is pervasive and complex. It can’t be tackled vertically; it must be a lateral endeavor. CTMT is looking across disciplines at human behavior, at media mastery skills, at the promise and threat of artificial intelligence, at issues of equity and access to technology and information.
Our mission is to foster a diverse community of scholars and thought leaders who will build an unparalleled ecosystem for studying ways to build trust and develop ways to apply what we learn. With that in mind, we draw scholars from across disciplines at the University of Florida to bring their best thinking to the task. Our Trust Scholars have come from the fields of journalism, agriculture, architecture, psychology, political science, education and philosophy.
We’re also driven by UF’s commitment to AI excellence across the entire curriculum in an effort that includes HiPerGator, the most powerful AI supercomputer in higher education. For our part, CTMT is motivated to explore not only AI’s potential for harm but the ways it can be a tool for building trust and connection. We’re determined to help shape the future of AI so that it speaks to our better angels.
Janet Coats is the Managing Director of the Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology. Her job is to serve as a convener, looking for opportunities for researchers and teachers to work together to address the trust crisis. She manages internal and external partnerships as well as the day-to-day operations of CTMT.
Prior to joining CTMT, Janet was the Executive Director of Innovation and Strategy at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. In that position, she had oversight of the News Co/Lab, the school’s media literacy program; News21, a national reporting initiative that draws top journalism students from across the country; and the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab.
Janet has been a pioneer in trust and engagement efforts in newsrooms across the country, both as a newsroom leader and as a consultant. For 10 years, she was Chief Executive Officer of Coats2Coats, a consulting company she founded with her husband that focused on journalism innovation and engagement. Her clients included public radio stations such as KUOW in Seattle, WAMU in Washington, WDET in Detroit and Colorado Public Radio in Denver, as well as a number of journalism collaborations supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Janet worked in daily journalism for more than 25 years, starting as a reporter at a 10,000-circulation newspaper in Texas and including pretty much every job in a newsroom. She served as Executive Editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and of the Tampa Tribune. She’s been a proud Floridian for nearly 25 years. Her bachelor’s degree in journalism is from the University of Missouri.
The University of Florida awarded $1.2 million in 2018 to create the Consortium on Trust in Media and Technology. CTMT is housed at UF’s College of Journalism and Communications.
Other support has come from:
Mitchell and Elissa Habib contributed $500,000 to support creation of a CTMT advisory team composed of leading industry thinkers. Mitchell Habib is a 1982 alumnus of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications.
Linda and Ken McGurn committed $2 million to establish the McGurn Fellowship Program for Media Integrity and the Fight Against Disinformation. The gift will fund fellowships at the College of Journalism and Communications, the Levin College of Law and the CTMT. The McGurns are UF alumni.