Journalists and civil society leaders from across the Americas gathered at the ASU California Center at the historic Los Angeles Herald Examiner Building on June 7 to participate in the first-ever Media Summit of the Americas, a multilingual conference designed to address a growing information crisis in the hemisphere.
The event, which was part of the larger Ninth Summit of the Americas, was organized by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University; the U.S. Department of State; and Equis Institute, a hub for leaders in the Latino community working to increase civic participation in American democracy.
From the rising threat of disinformation, censorship and mistrust, to the importance of protecting press freedom and promoting media literacy education, media professionals and keynote speakers from Latin America and the U.S., including U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, took the stage at the Media Summit to share their own experiences in tackling these issues.
Throughout the half-day event, attendees heard from Colombian, Salvadorian and Venezuelan journalists who shared stories from the field; learned about social media transparency with Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen; and engaged in four highly interactive workshops that focused on reporting under high stakes, fact-checking, platform accountability and media literacy.
Andrés Martínez, a professor of practice at the Cronkite School and a columnist for Mexico City’s Reforma newspaper, attended the platform accountability workshop, which highlighted factors that make disinformation problematic in Latino and Spanish-language-dominant communities in the U.S., including information voids and the changing nature of Latino media consumption.
Martínez, who called disinformation a “cancer” that affects everyone, believes that in order to identify solutions and disrupt the information crisis, media professionals and civil society leaders must join forces.
Collaborative efforts, like the Media Summit event, are a step in the right direction, Martínez said.
“Often, we don’t connect and collaborate enough across borders. The Cronkite School wants to create a dialogue in the hemisphere so that we can work together to disseminate disinformation and strengthen journalism.”
And strengthening journalism is exactly what Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro envisions.
Almagro, who spoke about the role and responsibility of governments in supporting media integrity at the Media Summit, took the stage to announce the launch of the Center for Media Integrity of the Americas, a new hub funded by voluntary donations to promote and support the practice of independent, non-interest affiliated journalism and social media production in the Americas.
“It is essential for the sustainability of any democracy that citizens have relevant, factual information to make the best possible decisions. That right is being openly challenged by malicious stakeholders misusing the multiple communication technologies at our disposal these days to spread disinformation and misinformation that promote their agendas at all costs,” Almagro said.
“Today we launch this Center for Media Integrity of the Americas to support those citizens’ right to information and invite all potential partners throughout the Americas to join us in this endeavor.”
And that wasn’t the only announcement attendees heard at the Media Summit.
During his remarks, Secretary Blinken announced the launch of a new chapter of the Disinformation Communications Network (DCN), which will benefit journalists in the Americas by expanding their resources and connections.
“The strength of DCN is in the diversity and flatness of the network that’s been created. It doesn’t try to prescribe one single solution, but what it does is it makes it easier for participants to learn from one another’s responses – whether through webinars or trainings, online learning hubs or research exchanges, even games and apps,” Blinken said.
“The new Americas chapter will complement DCN hubs in Africa and Europe, further broadening our network of partners and the ideas that they bring to the table,” he said.
Blinken also participated in a 45-minute conversation on the future of journalism led by Cronkite student reporters Andrea Villalobos and Madison Thomas and Cronkite alumna Marcella Baietto.
“It’s going to take a lot of time, and it needs to start with education. It needs to start with media literacy,” Baietto said about building media sustainability.
“Having the appropriate literacy to try to pull apart the information from the disinformation, the real from the fake, that’s something that needs to start really, really early,” Blinken said.
And while Blinken believes being a journalist is challenging, he deemed it incredibly important.
“It’s incredibly hard, but it’s incredibly, incredibly powerful and incredibly necessary. And I think having that drive to try to learn about something, to understand it, to know it, and then to be able to communicate it to your fellow citizens is a wonderful thing. So it’s great to see all of you going into it.”
Blinken’s discussion with the early-career journalists and all the other conversations and workshops that took place during the Media Summit embody the #CronkiteGlobal mission to connect media professionals across the world.
You can view photos of the event here.
About the Cronkite School
The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier professional journalism programs and has received international acclaim for its innovative use of the “teaching hospital” model. Rooted in the time-honored values that characterize its namesake — accuracy, responsibility, objectivity, integrity — the school fosters journalistic excellence and ethics in both the classroom and in its 13 professional programs that fully immerse students in the practice of journalism and related fields. Arizona PBS, one of the nation’s largest public television stations, is part of Cronkite, making it the largest media outlet operated by a journalism school in the world. Learn more at cronkite.asu.edu.