Start Earning Trust

Newsrooms need to tell a consistent, repetitive story about what motivates their work, the range of information and stories they offer, what sets them apart, who they are, how they operate and how people can reach them.

Telling that story should be a constant drumbeat — part of the rhythm of our work as journalists.

So, how do you get started? You can start by talking about your mission, discussing your ethics and asking for feedback.

Mission/Motivation:

Explain principles that guide your work. Do it clearly, and talk directly to your audience. Your statement of purpose should live not just on your “About” page but within your daily journalism.

Decisions/Ethics:

Take time to tell the story of your ethical decision making. Explain funding & news coverage, your ownership, crime coverage, suicide, etc. Discuss how you choose which stories to cover.

Ask For Feedback:

Invest in understanding the feedback you receive and then ask for more. Ask your audience what they think of you? Do they trust you? Do they think you covering your community fairly?

Seven Strategies

The Trusting News project has also developed seven strategies to help newsrooms rebuild trust with their users. A summary of each strategy is below. Click on the strategy name to dive a little deeper.

Be accessible and responsive:

Look for specific (not general) ways to invite feedback and conversation, and be responsive to what you hear. Think about how we respond to people in person. It’s rare for human beings to walk away when someone is talking to them. They feel obligated to at least acknowledge the person, even if they don’t have time for a long chat. Duplicate this online.

Show Individual Personality and Credibility:

Invite users to know the people producing the news. As odd as it might seem to you, most people don’t personally know a journalist. We can change their perceptions and challenge their assumptions by showing some humanity.

Explain your Process:

People say they want to see evidence of fair, deep reporting and thoughtful decision-making. Are you providing that evidence? Not all your users care to know what goes on behind the scenes as your journalism sausage gets made. — but many do. Some are hyper-interested in it. They’re looking for signs you’re being lazy, partisan or unfair. Others have a good-natured interest. They find the news process interesting and feel more of a connection to you if you invite them into it. This is not about bragging. It’s about transparency.

Describe your Ethics and Funding:

People assume journalists are controlled by corporate interests. They think what matters most to us are clicks and ratings, and that our editorial decision-making is guided by those priorities. They don’t know what our professional ethics look like. They don’t know that we are committed to correcting errors. Share your policies and standards.

Show how you are distinct from “the media”:

The media landscape is crowded, and not everything done in the name of journalism is responsible. Differentiate yourself from the impersonal, generic, misunderstood cultural phenomenon. Look for chances to explain who you are, what you do and why you’re here — your motivations and purpose. Communicate your values (and therefore your value).

Label your stories:

News consumers are confused about the difference between news, analysis and opinion. Consider that sometimes, especially with broadcast, the delineations are not always made clear. It can be tough to tell when tuning into a story, who’s interviewing and who’s analyzing. Consumers are also confused because of the atomized way content travels. A story appearing online in the opinion section might appear in a social feed as just another headline. Label all content clearly.

Demonstrate Balance:

Users overwhelmingly say they want to see multiple sides of a story, but they don’t always realize they’re getting it. While the balance might seem obvious to us, we need to point it out to our audience. Your goal with this strategy is to assure your audience balance is a goal of yours (not that you always achieve it), and point out when they’re getting it.