Giving Compass' Take:

• Deanna Lee explains how 'truth decay' and Americans' increasing lack of trust in news sources threaten democratic health.

• What can we do to create awareness around truth decay and unreliable news sources? How can you alter your giving to encourage a large-scale effort towards ethical news coverage?

• Read more about the impact of local news to reduce truth decay in the United States.

A healthy democracy relies on information. It requires engaged citizens to arm themselves with facts and hold their government to account.

But today, the United States is embroiled in an era of what experts at the RAND Corporation call “Truth Decay.”

More and more, Americans are disagreeing about objective facts. The line between fact and opinion is blurring before their eyes. And crucially, their trust in sources that they used to turn to for objective information, including the news media, is in decline.

Jennifer Kavanagh, who leads RAND's research initiative on Truth Decay, knows that the stakes are high. “If people no longer care about the news, or they don't trust it, or if they are getting poor-quality information, it poses a fundamental threat to the health of our democracy and its ability to function,” she said.

That's why Kavanagh and her colleagues are studying the rapidly shifting media landscape. Most recently, they asked a nationally representative sample of more than 2,500 adults about their media-consumption habits. By learning more about how Americans consume the news, the researchers are beginning to identify what it might take to ensure that facts and data remain at the center of U.S. public life.

“Addressing Truth Decay requires thinking about all the different access points and pieces of the problem, and then pulling as many different levers as possible,” said Kavanagh. This will require a large-scale, joint effort among media organizations, journalists, researchers, and news consumers.

Taking action on every front will be vital. After all, our democracy depends on it.

Read the full article about truth decay by Deanna Lee at the RAND Corporation.