A few years ago, we asked ourselves a question: If the Monitor had to identify the one theme or quality that most needed addressing in world news at that moment, what would it be?
So we launched The Respect Project – seven stories about how respect was at the core of some of our most intractable problems, from racial prejudice to LGBTQ+ rights to political polarization.
Soon after, we expanded the experiment with Finding Resilience, a monthslong effort to find stories of resilience as the world struggled with the pandemic and the effects of climate change.
At the beginning of a momentous year, the time is right, we think, to again consider what most needs attention in the news at this moment. Our answer: trust.
Starting in February, we will launch Rebuilding Trust, a Monitor-wide initiative to grapple with an issue fundamental to everything from the American presidential election to the war in Gaza, the rise of artificial intelligence, economic growth, and climate change. The more one looks into trust, the more one realizes how fundamental it is to virtually all of the world’s challenges. Trust is the lubricant of world progress. Without it, that engine smokes and sputters.
Isn’t that how things feel at the moment? Earlier this month, this magazine looked at how many of the worldwide trends of 2023 were actually positive. Yet the global atmosphere is one of decided gloom. To understand this, start with trust.
You don’t need to go far to hear about a trust crisis. Trust in our institutions is falling. So is trust in our political opponents. Trust in our future. Trust in our economic systems. Trust that we can save the planet.
But what is really happening? A comprehensive report by the British polling firm Ipsos offers food for thought. It suggests that trust hasn’t declined as much as people think. Instead, its 2022 report says, “The focus of the global elite on trust is likely to reflect the increasing scrutiny that governments, institutions, and industries are under from an increasingly vocal global population that is no longer quite so deferential as they once were.”
In this way, “distrust” is simply more voices, more loudly demanding better.
The Edelman Trust Barometer also offers insight. It notes the important role of the pace of change. Economies might still be relatively healthy, but “83 percent of workers are deeply concerned about losing their jobs due to factors such as automation, the gig economy, lack of training, cheaper foreign competition, and immigration,” as noted in the 2020 barometer.
Distrust is often born of uncertainty. And boy, do we have that.
What emerges when seeking a solution is the importance of trustworthiness. To build trust, one must be worthy of trust. Basically, by being better. More thoughtful. More responsible. More honest. So it is no wonder that trust is behind so much of the world’s news. To build trust is to build with higher motives – the unalterable demand of world progress.
And that is what we will be looking for. Trust is the compass needle that points us clearly toward where we can do better. And we can’t think of a better use for our journalism than doing exactly that – looking for all the ways the world can do better, and is doing better, so we can all rebuild trust.