Trusting News: A project of RJI and API
At Trusting News, we demystify trust in news and empower journalists to take responsibility for actively demonstrating credibility and earning trust. We partner with newsrooms and researchers to experiment with transparency and trust-building strategies, and we use what we learn to train journalists and educators. We firmly believe that responsible, ethical journalists should not succumb to the national rhetoric around “the media” and instead need to invest in telling the story of their own work and why it’s valuable and trustworthy.
Read more below:
Ways to follow our work:
- Our Trust Tips newsletter provides one quick, actionable tip for earning trust each Tuesday. See highlights and sign up here.
- Our Medium Publication serves as our blog. We share advice on specific coverage areas, write about research and share highlights from our newsroom partners.
- Add us to your social feeds on Twitter and Facebook.
Our training programs:
Trust 101 is a free online course in which you will develop a customized plan for earning trust in your own work, with individualized feedback from the Trusting News team. It is offered a few times a year, with a five-week version for working journalists and a two-week version for educators. Learn more and sign up to be alerted when we’re taking applications.
We offer training via SMS (text message) and are currently accepting sign-ups for a Trustworthy Elections 10-day course.
Election SOS is a partnership with Hearken in which we are training journalists in how to demonstrate the credibility of our election coverage. Our four-week classes ran each month from June to September. Our efforts have moved to offerings such as a newsroom fellowship program, a story pitch database, an expert network and a scenario planning guide. We hope you’ll take a few minutes and explore the Election SOS website.
We routinely offer customized webinars for newsrooms and news companies. We also partner with other journalism support organizations to blend Trusting News strategies into customized webinars and other newsroom training. Interested? Contact info@TrustiingNews.org.
Other ways we support individual journalists and newsrooms:
Since 2016, we have partnered with newsrooms to test trust-building strategies. With a partnership, we work with newsrooms to identify their greatest obstacles to trust and craft customized strategies that will help them demonstrate credibility to their own audiences. We outline goals, track progress, offer regular feedback and help assess success. In some cases, we’re able to measure qualitative results (such as this newsletter experiment with PolitiFact), and in other cases we help analyze qualitative reactions from the public and from newsroom staff. Some of those partnerships last a few months, and others have been ongoing since Trusting News began. See the list of partners on this page.
We also work more informally with newsrooms or with individual journalists to discuss specific challenges, brainstorm ideas and offer feedback and coaching. Interested? Here is a form to request a conversation with our team of Trusting News staff and trust coaches.
We look for opportunities to work with academic researchers to better understand the perceptions, preferences, attitudes and behavior of news consumers. That work sometimes involves isolating and testing transparency strategies. Two examples of that have come through a partnership with the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas. We tested whether adding explanations for how journalists do their jobs is a useful tool to help build trust. One experiment found that adding an “explain your process” box can improve a user’s perceptions of a news organization. A second study using focus groups suggested that TV viewers appreciate when journalists explain why a story is being done.
Also 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. 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.”
We have also worked with journalists to collect information about how users decide what news to trust. In one organized effort, partner journalists published a questionnaire that resulted in 8,728 user responses. They then selected people (across a diversity of demographics, political leanings and likelihood to trust the news) and sat down for in-depth interviews. (When was the last time you sat down with a community member to talk about their perceptions of your work?) Some highlights of what they learned: People trust journalism they find to be balanced, in-depth, honest and reputable. Here is an analysis of those interviews. What we learned formed the basis of the seven strategies we tested next.
If you are a researcher interested in trust and perceptions of news, we’d love to talk about potential collaborations. Please email info@TrustingNews.org.
Director: Joy Mayer founded Trusting News in 2016 after a 20-year career in newsrooms and teaching. She spent 12 years at the Missouri School of Journalism, where she created an audience engagement curriculum and a community outreach team in the newsroom of the Columbia Missourian and also taught web design and print design. In addition to Trusting News work, she is an adjunct faculty member at The Poynter Institute. She lives in Sarasota, Florida, and can be reached at joy@TrustingNews.org.
Assistant director: Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has worked in investigative journalism at the national level and locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She is the former Ethics Chair for the Society of Professional Journalists and a past national president for the organization. Based in San Diego, Lynn is also an adjunct professor and freelance journalist. She can be reached at lynn@TrustingNews.org.
Project manager: Mollie Muchna is an award-winning journalist who has worked in digital journalism at local newsrooms in Colorado and Arizona. She is also the online editor at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, Arizona, where she oversees the newsroom’s community engagement and digital strategies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marketing strategist: Kamila Jambulatova is a marketing and creative strategist and a bilingual writer passionate about mission-driven journalism. She received her MA from the Missouri School of Journalism, and in addition to Trusting News, she is also a marketing coordinator for Hearken and Election SOS.
Additional Trust Coaches and Consultants:
Letrell Deshan Crittenden is the director of inclusion and audience growth at the American Press Institute. Before that, he was an assistant professor of communication and program director at Thomas Jefferson University and a scholar specializing in issues related diversity and inclusion in news and community journalism. He is also a former police and government reporter.
Laura E. Davis is an assistant professor of professional practice and the digital news director of the USC Annenberg Media Center. She has worked as a reporter at The Associated Press, a homepage, social media and politics editor at Yahoo News, the deputy mobile editor at the Los Angeles Times and a mobile editor at BuzzFeed, where she helped develop and launch the award-winning BuzzFeed News app.
Tim Lambert is the multimedia news director and Morning Edition host at WITF – a public media organization in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He also serves as co-editor of PA Post – a statewide, digital first, news organization. Lambert has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years and is a five-time recipient of the Radio Television Digital News Association’s (RTDNA) prestigious National Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast and digital journalism. He also lead his organization’s participation in the Trusting News project. Tim is a graduate of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Erica Smith is the managing editor for digital at the Times Union in Albany, New York. She has worked as a page designer and social media editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, online producer at St. Louis Public Radio and senior editor at The Virginian-Pilot. She was the Local Media Association’s digital news innovator of the year in 2018. She earned her master’s in entrepreneurial technology from the University of Maryland the same year. Erica collects typewriters, loves spreadsheets and eats M&Ms in Roy G Biv order.
Our Partner Organizations:
The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) works with the news industry, professors, students and others to make sure journalism has a long and bright future. As a “think-and-do” tank that opened its doors in 2008, RJI uses its guaranteed funding to work exclusively to strengthen journalism in the service of democracy. It’s part of the Missouri School of Journalism.
The American Press Institute advances an innovative and sustainable news industry by helping publishers understand and engage audiences, grow revenue, improve public-service journalism, and succeed at organizational change. It is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization affiliated with the News Media Alliance.