During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vox launched a contributions project to ensure they could keep their journalism free for the public to read. In a column explaining the new initiative, the staff was clear to explain how advertising and the newsroom’s funding had changed since the beginning of the pandemic and directly listed all the ways contributions would be used to help continue producing important journalism. “Vox provides all of its content free — and we are committed to keeping it that way. Vox Media has a very diversified business, but without a subscription product or a paywall at Vox, advertising is still a major revenue source for our network,” the article read. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Guardian included a note at the bottom of its articles that directly asked for readers’ support. The note shared the organization’s goal to provide authoritative, fact-based information and reminded users of its mission to continue providing independent news. “We believe every one of us deserves equal access to quality, independent, trustworthy journalism. So, unlike many others, we made a different choice: to keep Guardian journalism open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay,” the ask reads. “This would not be possible without financial contributions from readers who now support our work from 180 countries around the world.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Content Strategist Jennifer Hefty at the Coloradoan did some math and figured out that the newspaper would need around 20,000 digital-only subscribers to sustain their local newsroom. Once realizing this goal, she was able to mobilize other journalists in the newsroom to help. Hefty asked reporters to state their reasoning and motivation behind their work in two or less sentences. The paper then embedded these statements alongside reporter’s photos and paired them with their stories. It resulted in the paper getting more digital subscribers than daily print subscribers for the first time ever.
When faced with major advertising dollars lost during the coronavirus pandemic, journalists at The Day decided they needed to be direct with their audience and explain their bottom line. The newsroom ended up implementing multiple new strategies to share their mission and need for support from their community, which included additional subscription asks when they made COVID-19 stories free and personalized video pleas from reporters. Here’s what multimedia director Peter Huoppi had to say: “We knew the coronavirus was going to affect our company, but we didn’t realize how quickly things would change and how profound the effects would be. As the weeks went by, we realized we had to step outside of our comfort zone and talk more directly about our bottom line … It’s resulted in more money and reader subscriptions, which will allow us to continue to report on important issues and keep people informed.”
VOX media included a note at the bottom of a story related to the coronavirus outbreak that talked about the organization’s values and then tied it to an ask for user’s support. “Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn,” the editor’s note says. “Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Like many businesses, news organizations are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial creativity and cutbacks might be required, and new revenue streams can help keep the lights on. But news organizations are in a situation that other businesses are not: While they might need and qualify for outside financial support, they are also expected to fairly cover the business impact of the virus. As a journalist in a newsroom, you likely don’t have control over whether your newsroom accepts a loan from the government or applies for grants from a foundation or company. What journalists CAN control (or at least advocate for) is being transparent about any funds received. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here. 
The Day released a series of short videos of newsroom staff talking about their work and sharing how they need their community’s support during the coronavirus outbreak. “If you are someone who has found our coverage interesting, information, sometimes uplifting … if you have benefited from our articles, please consider supporting us by subscribing,” reporter Erica Moser said in one of the videos.
Publisher and editor of the Malheur Enterprise Les Zaitz used research about the diminishing levels of public trust in media to remind readers of the organization’s mission and commitment to fact-based, trustworthy reporting. “The Enterprise operates on principles the staff lives by daily. We make those principles public. We are driven to earn and keep your trust. We are determined to scrub even the appearance of bias out of our reports. We are determined to always serve the citizen, not favor those in power – or fear them,” Zaitz writes. “As journalists, we will do all we can to earn your trust. At the same time, consider giving that trust-based not on general perceptions of the media but on our performance.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.


The Pinckneyville Press used a story about the state of local media to remind their community how the newsroom needed their support. The paper shared the story on it’s Facebook page with a personal plea: “No one will fight harder for your right to know what is going on in your city, county, court and schools than our team. In the past ten years, we have exposed over a million dollars of questionable government spending, malfeasance or outright theft,” the Facebook post reads. “We need your help to continue our mission.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
After intially lifting the paywall on all coronavirus-related stories, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram decided that as the pandemic went on, the newsroom would start putting some additional stories behind the paywall. Editor Steve Coffman wrote a column explaining the change in clear, straightforward language that told readers about the paper’s funding model while also expressing the paper’s need for support: “This is a matter of survival for the Star-Telegram and other local newspapers,” Coffman wrote. “We have taken a significant revenue hit due to the coronavirus on the advertising side, which is reflective of the struggles local businesses face.”
Buzzfeed used an editor’s note at the top of their stories related to the coronavirus pandemic to remind their readers of their mission of providing trustworthy news. They also used the opportunity to ask users for their audience’s financial support. “The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus,” the note read. “To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.


Tell your audience directly that your news outlet doesn’t celebrate covering big crises like the COVID-19 outbreak. Editor of the Arizona Daily Star, Jill Jordan Spitz, did this through a column where she reminded their audience that the journalists were dedicated to covering the coronavirus outbreak because of their commitment to serving the city. “No, we are not loving this,” Spitz writes. “But covering events that hurt our community does not make us happy — and contrary to what some people seem to believe, it does not make us money.” The column went onto explain how the virus spread has affected the paper’s bottom line and contrary to some public belief, was actually decreasing funding for the paper.
The editor of the Bozeman Chronicle Nick Ehli wrote a column explaining how economic changes during the coronavirus outbreak were impacting the paper’s bottom line. He explained in a transparent and straightforward tone that the paper had lost a significant amount of advertising money and how that was affecting the hours his reporters were able to work. “…out parent company, the Adams Publishing Group, this week ordered a top-to-bottom partial furlough for all of its employees. This means that — for the time being — our journalists will be working fewer hours than they were before. I’d like to tell you that you won’t notice any changes, that we will be able to cover our community with the same vigor you’ve hopefully come to expect, but that simply wouldn’t be true,” Ehli wrote. “Reporters and photographers working 30 hours a week instead of 40 will produce less content. There is no way around that fact.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
As the coronavirus outbreak spread and the number of news updates increased, the Coloradoan reminded their audience of their mission to keep the public informed. They did this by putting an editor’s note at the top of their coverage: “As the coronavirus outbreak continues to evolve, we don’t want you to panic. In fact, quite the opposite, ” the note read. “That’s why the Coloradoan is committed to providing you with accurate, up-to-date information so you can make informed decisions on issues affecting you and the people you love.” The editor’s note also let readers know they were providing all content related to the coronavirus for free as a community service, but they also directly asked readers to support their important work by subscribing to the paper.
The Coloradoan let their audience know how vital subscriptions were by talking about their funding with their audience. “About 60% of our revenue comes from advertising. The other 40% comes from subscriptions. To sustain the future of local news in Northern Colorado, we are dependent upon support from readers, like you.”


Something that gets us VERY excited at Trusting News is when a newsroom is willing to use its newsletter to build trust. That’s partly because newsletters often use an informal tone and voice that are ideal for talking directly to readers about how and why the news is produced. But it’s also because of how simple it is to test two versions of something and see how audiences behave. Simple is a welcome change because measuring opinions about a news product is hard, and so is isolating trust factors when news has so many variables. We get pretty creative about how we gauge success, and we rely a lot on our partner newsrooms to tell us what they observe about their audience’s responses to trust-building efforts. (We’re also grateful when we can partner with academic researchers.) More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Staff at The Day used strong language on their subscription page to explain who they are and what they stood for. They reminded readers that their journalists live, shop and play in the same community. They also shared some basic information about the paper’s funding.
Screenshot from a Facebook post, discussing The Coloradoan's price increase.
Earning trust is everyone’s job, and sometimes that involves customer service. A change in the cost of digital subscriptions led to lots of customer service complaints at the Coloradoan. While it’s not the newsroom’s department and the journalists could have brushed off the calls coming in, they decided to step in and help. In total the team answered and responded to about 100 calls. The team tracked complaints and issues, then worked to resolve them one at a time. One of their subscribers said the newsroom’s ability and willingness to help increased her level of trust in the news organization.