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If you can't trust the media, who can you...?

The headline for this story should have read: "Burning issue of the day! Lack of trust in mainstream media threatens democracy!"

Of course, that's just from our perspective.

Your perspective may be completely different -- and here's your chance to do something about it.

The third and final National Issues Forum of the 2005-06 series, which focuses on the topic "News Media & Society: Restoring the Public Trust," is set for Wednesday, March 15 at the Minnesota State Community & Technical College main conference center on Highway 34 in Detroit Lakes.

Starting at 6:30 p.m., the 2 1/2-hour discussion will include a panel of lakes area news media. The intent of these forums, according to organizer and forum convener Ted Schaum, is "to bring together citizens to deliberate and make choices about the challenging social and political issues of the day."

The March 15 forum will focus attention on the deterioration of the public's trust in local, state and national news media's ability to report the news accurately, ethically and without "spin."

It is Schaum's hope that the discourse will ultimately lead to some positive ideas for restoring that public trust.

"We will exchange opinions, experiences and our feelings as individuals, and hopefully, come to a consensus as a group (on what needs to be done)," he added.

Three possible approaches for restoring the public's trust will be discussed at the forum:

Strengthen journalists' conduct by developing clear and consistent standards for reporting the news, and holding the journalists accountable for upholding these standards through certification.

Open up the marketplace, guard against the concentration of media ownership by a relatively small number of corporate entities and ensure room for diverse voices and perspectives.

Bring citizens more directly into the process of deciding on and reporting the news, and tear down the "wall" between citizens and journalists.

In addition to the media panel, Schaum said there will be a 12-15 minute video presentation on the topic in order to focus the ensuing small group discussions.

Schaum noted that he first started organizing local National Issues Forum discussions as a means of increasing community awareness and citizen involvement in current issues of the day,

"Audience interaction is the key," he noted.

Though all NIF events are free and open to the public, Schaum said pre-registration is preferred. For more information, or to pre-register, contact him at 218-847-2927, by cell at 218-849-0163, or by e-mail at

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454