A Road to Pluralism

This initiative by Trusting News aims help journalists strengthen trust across the political spectrum to bridge divides, foster productive conversations and fuel open-mindedness. 


Why pluralism

Healthy democracies depend on civic dialogue and a shared set of facts. Our team at Trusting News believes local news especially can play an important role in bridging conversations across political divides. Our goal is to better understand the societal and psychological forces that influence polarization and perceptions of news.

The work we want journalists to do will involve transparency and engagement strategies to explain and defend the integrity and credibility of journalism. It involves self-reflection about how we as journalists contribute to polarization by reinforcing binary positions, oversimplifying complex views, and fueling outrage by focusing on extreme characters. It will also include a look at the ways journalists bring our own assumptions and worldview to our work — in ways that are necessary and/or problematic, and both accidental and by choice. Read more about why we’re deciding to go down this road to pluralism

Keep reading to find out how you can get involved in our new Pluralism Network to drill down on specific challenges and find solutions.


What research tells us

In partnership with the Center for Media Engagement, we set out to better understand a group of people known for distrusting the news. A group of 27 local newsrooms across the country used our interview guide to survey their right-leaning audiences (with a built-in acknowledgment that no political group is monolithic). The research team analyzed 91 interviewees to gather insight on how they view the news. 

The discussions revealed specific approaches journalists can take to better connect with their conservative and right-leaning audiences. 

View the full report and findings: “How Local Newsrooms Can Better Connect with Conservative and Right-leaning Audiences”


Project themes 

Based on what we’ve heard from the newsrooms we work with, on the experiences of our newsroom partners who conducted the recent interviews with conservatives in their communities, and on the results of those interviews themselves, we’ve identified five themes we are going to dive into and develop trust strategies around. 

1. The value and challenges of local and national news 

People value local reporting about their community. But their mistrust towards national politics often affects their view of local outlets. How can journalists reinforce the importance of what they offer in their communities and re-examine the role national stories play in their coverage?  

Read more or watch the replay of a public conversation we had on the topic. 

2. Generalizations and polarization

Journalists can use complex descriptors to avoid oversimplifications. What are some of the strategies for telling more accurate, more complex stories that foster productive conversations and promote depolarization? 

Read more or watch the replay of a public conversation we had on the topic. 

3. Perceptions of stories’ fairness 

News consumers often say they want stories that “just give me the facts” and “include both sides.” So what makes a story feel fair or balanced to the reader? What makes it feel opinionated? And how do those elements play out in the decisions journalists make day to day about things like sourcing, word choice, and headline writing?

Read more or watch the replay of a public conversation we had on the topic. 

4. Bias in the newsroom

What are journalists’ own experiences and worldviews? Do they reflect the diversity of political thought, life experiences, and values, as well as a diversity of race, gender, and age? Journalists learn to recognize their own biases and blind spots in some ways. But does that skill extend to political thought — which isn’t something newsrooms tend to discuss openly?  

Read more or watch the replay of a public conversation we had on the topic. 

5. Outreach and listening 

The journalists who participated in our interview project talked about how much they learned from their conversations. The same was true for the community members they interviewed, who expressed thankfulness and appreciation to the journalists for taking the time to get to know them. How can journalists adopt continuous outreach and listening efforts? 


Get involved 

Interested in this project? Want to talk to connect with experts, organizers, and fellow journalists? Here are some ways you can get involved.

Join our Pluralism Network

Apply to join our pluralism network, a private Slack group of like-minded journalists interested in building trust in a polarized world. The network will be a place where journalists can have conversations and collaborate on how they can reach and be trusted by a more diverse audience with fact-based, responsible journalism. 

Members will: 

  • Learn insights from research related to how political views influence news perceptions 
  • Hear from journalists who’ve been reaching out to people with low trust
  • Share with each other what you’re trying, and see examples of innovative work
  • Connect around shared challenges and frustrations
  • Contribute to collaborative experiments by adding trust elements to your news content
  • Help identify opportunities for related research projects

Please fill out this form with your work email to indicate your interest. 


“A Road to Pluralism” Event series


We want to bring in expertise from organizations that have been working in depolarization by hosting “A Road to Pluralism” event series. Over the next weeks and months, we’re going to have targeted conversations around different project themes and host Q&A’s with experts in the field.

Register here


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