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Thank you
for joining us at

#ICA24 International Communication Association

Annual Conference

Gold Coast, Australia

Legacies of Media Harm  
and the 
Soft Skills of Trust Brokers


The present study explores race, journalism, and perceptions of trust and mistrust through the lens of Black communities and journalists who worked on ground zero of the “racial reckoning” that followed the 2020 murder of George Floyd. We explore the landscape of trust as it exists across entities and spaces with news and information systems through surveys of Black community members and interviews with their most trusted news providers. In surveys, we find that Black residents in the Twin Cities trust individuals more than institutions. Those individuals aren’t just traditional media makers, but many of them are Black journalists. In our interviews with the named trusted messengers from these survey, we explore the intersection of racial and occupational identities to understand better how trust and distrust coexist and how Black journalists perceive and negotiate their roles in their communities and employers. Data from in-depth interviews with ground-zero journalists suggests that, in order to navigate this climate as a trust broker successfully, journalists must prioritize their community understanding within the context of the institutional harm created by media organizations and then navigate communities with soft skills that may appear somewhat antithetical to traditional journalistic practice and timeliness demands – through diligence, which requires journalists to invest time in a community persistently, and deference, which requires journalists to cede time, space and authority to those they are trying to work with.


Our backstory

2023 Symposium Highlights

Hear from a trusted messenger. 

LIFT x Voice Collab with PopUpDocs 


We observed a critical need for more advanced understanding of trust networks and trusted messenger roles in marginalized communities. Our future project developments will clearly center these findings and foundations. 


First and foremost, we hope to continue our research while also expanding our team so that we are able to support more communities. Given feedback from the inaugural LIFT Symposium, we hope to continue planning and hosting a public facing community-centered event that highlights research findings and has critical discussions about proposed solutions, and connects trusted messengers, creating opportunities for networking, resource sharing and restoration. Our 2023 symposium focused on trusted messengers in more traditional media making spaces but expansions would include trusted messengers across industries including: journalism and media makers; faith leaders; coaches and youth program leaders; activists; and others. In partnership with the MSU School of Journalism, the symposium include support from the Neal Shine Endowment Fund, and would included a Neal Shine honorary and lecture. Criteria for this lecture centers change agents in newsrooms. 


The LIFT x Voices programming is a public-facing data-driven storytelling project that allows researchers from the LIFT project to collaborate with media makers to visualize the data we collect for the more general public. We partner with Pop Up Docs™ – a mobile media production company that offers a framework for engaging youth and young adults in visual journalism production through apprenticeships – to help tell the stories we find in the data, from the narratives of trusted messengers to the specific concerns of Black communities. During our first workshop, ten Michigan highschool students produced a short documentary-style interview production about the named trusted messenger and Detroit Free Press columnist Darren Nichols. For future workshops, Sony will provide additional technology with state-of-the-art camera, sound and video production equipment rentals.  This program will produce both a traditional short documentary and an interactive, web-based documentary presentation of trusted messengers that impact Black communities


LIFTxClimb programs educates and supports the unique needs of trusted messengers, focusing on resilience, retention, and recovery. Previously built into the LIFT Symposium programming, we seek to expand workshops and training opportunities in standalone programs throughout the year. We have several confirmed partnerships that will help with programming.


With the Diversity Pledge Institute (DPI), we connect LIFT's research-backed trusted messenger training with DPI's DEI landscape and sustainability research to identify ways to maximize DEI investments for newsrooms and individuals. 


In collaboration with the MSU Study Abroad, we’ll offer opportunities to connect students and trusted messengers  with each other and the world in a series of programs that builds communication skills and issue-specific knowledge, while  providing mentorship and community.


Working with the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources, the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, and the Center of Journalism Studies, we’ll develop a speaker series dedicated to highlighting trusted messengers’ concerns about climate and environment related issues.


In between hope and despair, we see a space for change -- a change that is sustainable, reparative, and scalable.

We want to see that change to the finish line. 

So we've started dreaming and developing a suite of programs that we know will help realize the changes we hope to see. 

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