Screenshot from the comments on a post The Coloradoan made on Facebook, explaining how the news organization handles breaking news updates.
After posting news of a decision in a court case, the Coloradoan received criticism for the lack of information in the story from a Facebook commenter. The news organization responded to the user and explained that this was a breaking news story and they would be updating the story as they confirm details and receive more information.
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.
Screenshot from Reddit, where users are discussing a story shared by Discourse.
Discourse shared links to stories in appropriate subreddits on Reddit. They targeted subreddits that already existed, hoping to capture the attention of people who are already interested in the topic of their story and active on the platform. The news organization received some traction and has been continuing to share their stories in subreddits.
Screenshot from a WITF story on NPR's website, including the text "What questions do you still have about this topic? Email me..."
On a partnership series focused on energy in their region, WITF invited users to contact the reporter working on these stories directly. They also asked users what they want to know related to the topic of energy.
Screenshot showing text on the WITF website: "Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Send an email to..."
WITF asked their users for feedback in a simple, yet effective way by posing two questions at the end of stories on its website: “Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Send an email to…” If we ask for feedback, we often don’t focus on what we may have missed. By doing so, you are letting users see you want to know how the story could have been better and are willing to make stories the best they can be.
Screenshot from WITF's website, showing a post with the headline: "Media is criticized; not trusted by half of Americans"
During a daily, live radio show, WITF put the focus of the show on journalism and declining trust in news. They invited industry experts and took questions from listeners, which they answered after the show. The show was honest about the issues facing the industry while also offering insight into how news works.
Screenshot from WCPO's website, showing a post with the headline: "WCPO leadership makes decisions about what stories the station covers every day"
WCPO talked directly to their users about their story selection process. In a post on their website, they talked about what types of questions are involved when they make decisions about what to cover and what not to cover. Included in the note was mention of their approach to stories involving suicide and their approach to covering car accidents. The news team also shared the story on Facebook and received over 100 comments from users.
Screenshot from WCPO's Facebook page, showing an article where they asked for reader feedback.
WCPO followed the lead of ESPN and reported that an NFL player would be leaving the Bengals. Turns out it wasn’t true. WCPO addressed the mistake head-on by writing about how the mistake happened on their website. They shared their step-by-step reporting process, which involved relying on ESPN’s citing of anonymous sources. This led them to share their anonymous source policy and ask their audience for feedback. “Should we publish and air stories from other respected news organizations citing anonymous sources,” they asked. They then shared the article with a call for feedback on Facebook.
Screenshot showing the "Submit News" page on The Virginian-Pilot's website.
The Virginian-Pilot took a look at their contact form system and realized it was clunky. Instead of being forwarded directly to an email address, journalists had to login to a different system to access what was submitted. To fix this, they decided to redirect the “contact the newsroom” option to another form that was more easily accessible for the newsroom. This provided easier access to the tips and feedback from users and increased the likelihood of users receiving responses.
Screenshot from USA TODAY's Facebook page, highlighting how a story came together: "A USA TODAY reader wanted to know the details. Here's what we gathered"
USA TODAY used a reader’s question to build a story. The news organization could have responded directly to the question on social media but decided to take it a step further and make the answer its own story while highlighting the user and their question. It allowed the reader to get mentioned and feel “really seen” by the news organization.
Screenshot from a Facebook LIVE video on USA TODAY's page, showing a discussion between readers and experts.
USA TODAY invited two people who commented on a previous Facebook Live, sharing traumatic stories involving assault and abuse, to join a Facebook Live via Skype, with a representative of the Women’s Center in Washington, D.C. Engaging with users throughout all aspects of reporting made this possible. While logistically challenging, USA TODAY was very happy with how it turned out, and so were users.
The Day held a Q&A on Facebook by allowing individuals to ask questions by commenting on a post. The newsroom then replied and answered questions in the same comment thread. They invited multiple people from the newsroom to participate and respond. It resulted in a very lively discussion.
Screenshot from a Jefferson City News Tribune online story, showing the reporter's contact information at the end of the text.
The Jefferson City News Tribune added a line at the bottom of stories to provide users with one more reminder that they want feedback and providing it is as easy as sending an email. At this news organization, the email address is already listed online and in print, but they wanted to add it to one more location so users saw it one more time.
Screenshot showing invitation details for Jefferson City's Coffee with the Editor event
The Jefferson City News Tribune took their monthly “Coffee with the Editor” event to a local high school during parent-teacher conferences. This helped them reach a different audience than they normally do: parents, teachers and students. The also passed out information about how to contact the newsroom online, on social media, by email, etc.
Screenshot from the News Tribune's Facebook page, showing a post that asked readers: "What questions do you have about Gov. Eric Greitens' indictment? Tell us in a comment, and we'll do our best to answer them."
The Jefferson City News Tribune was covering a complicated political story that was changing quickly. While doing so, they asked their audience what questions they had about the story and attempted to answer them in real time.
Screenshot showing the Facebook invitation for the Jefferson City News Tribune's monthly "Coffee with the editor" events.
The Jefferson City News Tribune meets their community in coffee shops. The newsroom holds the meetings monthly with the editor and invites reporters to participate as well. They spend time answering questions and getting to know community members. They also make sure to pass out information about how the community can get in touch with them over the phone, on social media or by email.
Screenshot showing a form embedded on thegazette.com, asking readers "What questions do you have?"
The Gazette started using Google Forms to ask users if anything in their stories needed more reporting or explanation. The forms were primarily created for local stories they wanted to dig into more. This resulted in information for them to advance the story, and also, sometimes led to a new story to cover.
Screenshot from thegazette.com, showing an explanation of how a story originated with reader feedback.
The Gazette noticed a lot of users had questions about a story they covered. They looked at the questions and decided they warranted responses, so, the news team worked to find answers and published a follow-up story. They made sure to include language explaining their reporting process, which highlights how they listen to their users act on feedback they receive.
Screenshot from thegazette.com, showing a shaded box where the paper asked readers for feedback and ideas.
To help get more ideas on who they should talk to in their community, the Gazette decided to ask their users for help. Through a shaded pull-out box embedded in a web story, they asked for ideas identifying possible sources and general feedback on the story. In this example, it resulted in the newsroom receiving a handful of story ideas.
House ad that ran in The Cedar Rapids Gazette, asking readers to let the paper know: Do you trust us?
Asking for feedback is something that can be done on all mediums, including print. The Gazette used an advertisement in their print newspaper to ask people if they trust them. They found they received more detailed and helpful feedback from the people who responded after seeing the print ad vs. the digital posts asking for feedback.
Screenshot from the @CALmatters account on Twitter: "Feel free to DM us with areas of coverage you want but aren't getting from other outlets. I can pass along to the relevant reporters/editors."
CALmatters decided to get involved when a news consumer couldn’t find information related to a specific story by responding to a Twitter thread. They were able to point the person in the right direction and it only took a couple minutes of their time.
Screenshot from KCRG's Facebook page, where the station asked viewers to share whether or not they trust KCRG.
Have you ever asked your users if they trust you? This is a simple way to get feedback and something KCRG tried on Facebook and on their website. When posing the question on Facebook, journalists took time to answer the questions. Their users were polite for the most part and more importantly appreciated responses, even though some of their questions were difficult.
Screenshot from The Christian Science Monitor's Facebook page, explaining why the organization was implementing a paywall and inviting comments.
When instituting a paywall or changing what users will be able to access for free, it’s important to be upfront, honest and respond to criticism. That’s exactly what the Christian Science Monitor did when they limited the number of articles non-subscribers could read for free on their website. In their post, they talked about why this was happening and the emphasized the value of their reporting. Most importantly, they took time to respond to comments and questions from users. After this announcement, the news organization reported an increase in subscriptions.
Screenshot from The Christian Science Monitor's Facebook page, explaining why a frequent commenter was banned.
The Christian Science Monitor used the negative behavior of a frequent Facebook group commenter as an opportunity to reinforce the values of the group and the news organization. They also asked the community to help them maintain civil dialogue and asked group members what they wanted to get out of the group. The responses validated the value of their Facebook group for the newsroom and also reminded the journalists that sometimes Facebook users need to be reminded about community rules and guidelines.
Tweet from Annenberg Media, reading: Do you have a news tip, story or event you’d like us to cover? You can share your tips and suggestions at http://bit.ly/annenbergmedianewstip ...
Annenberg Media used a simple tweet and Google form to solicit story ideas and tips. If you want feedback, ask for it. When asking it’s important to meet the user where they are. Receiving an email may be easier for you, but sending a Facebook/Instagram Message, tweet, or text may be easier for your user.
Tweet from Annenberg Media, reading: Do you have a news tip, story or event you’d like us to cover? You can share your tips and suggestions at http://bit.ly/annenbergmedianewstip ...
Annenberg Media used a simple tweet and Google form to solicit story ideas and tips. If you want feedback, ask for it. When asking it’s important to meet the user where they are. Receiving an email may be easier for you, but sending a Facebook/Instagram Message, tweet, or text may be easier for your user.
Screenshot from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Facebook page, where a video was shared highlighting the paper's community coverage.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram created a video highlighting community coverage. The video includes clips from local high school football games, a popular festival and local government coverage. It was an easy way to remind users that their journalists are part of the community they serve and the newsroom works to cover the many neighborhoods in their region.
Screenshot from a Facebook LIVE Q&A with KCRG's news director.
Bring yourself to your audience. That’s what KCRG did when they went live on Facebook to talk about their newsroom values and journalism processes. Some things people wanted to know included how they choose which stories to cover and how they manage social media posts. News managers were involved in the video too. The video received more than 8 thousand views.
Screenshot from WUSA's Facebook page, showing an interview conducted on Facebook LIVE.
Sometimes a story takes off on digital and social platforms. That’s what happened to WUSA when their reporter produced a story about domestic violence. There were so many comments and questions on the story content shared on Facebook that news management decided to give the reporter an entire day to respond and interact with the commenters. WUSA also did a Facebook LIVE with a local domestic violence expert.
Screenshot from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's page on Facebook, asking: What are we missing? And including instructions for community members to submit story ideas.
Want to know what types of stories your audience wants to see? Just ask them. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram used the hiring of a new investigative journalist to ask users “what are we missing?” The post, shared on Facebook and Twitter, invited users to share story ideas with the newsroom using a Google Form. As journalists we sometimes assume people know it’s OK to contact us but, that’s not always the case. A simple ask or invitation can go a long way.
Screenshot from the Civility Tennessee group page on Facebook.
Hot button issues like racism and gun control can be difficult to have on social media. The Tennessean wanted to create a “safe place” for their community to engage with one another on the platform, so, they created a Facebook group called “Civility Tennessee.” The group has resulted in healthy discussions and over 150 active members posting daily or weekly. The group is “closed” and users have to answer a few questions in order to gain access. This allows the newsroom to have more control over who is in the group and makes moderation a bit easier.
Screenshot from the Civility Tennessee group page on Facebook.
Hot button issues like racism and gun control can be difficult to have on social media. The Tennessean wanted to create a “safe place” for their community to engage with one another on the platform, so, they created a Facebook group called “Civility Tennessee.” The group has resulted in healthy discussions and over 150 active members posting daily or weekly. The group is “closed” and users have to answer a few questions in order to gain access. This allows the newsroom to have more control over who is in the group and makes moderation a bit easier.
Screenshot from tennessean.com, showing an invitation for more veterans to share their perspectives with the newspaper.
The staff at the Tennessean set up a “Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.” The group worked on identifying people in the community they wanted to hear more from and then invited them into their newsroom. Those groups included veterans, Muslims and gun owners. A common theme came out of these visits: people wanted to be included in responsible and accurate coverage. For the Tennessean these visits resulted in more sources for stories and more people submitting letters to the editor.

screenshot from thegazette.com, showing a pull-out box with multiple perspectives.

 

screenshot from thegazette.com, showing a pull-out box with multiple perspectives.
The Gazette highlighted how they bring multiple perspectives into each story they cover by adding a pull-out box to their web story. The box highlighted what people on each side of the issue thought, shared a link to their in-depth coverage and asked users for feedback.

Screenshot of a headline that reads: Plazas: Why can't we be more civil on the Nashville transit debate?

Screenshot from tennessean.com
The columnist’s transparency is admirable, as he owns up about how he was “duped” and how he tried to move forward with civility, rather than “starting a pointless and heated Twitter feud.” Readers responded positively and kept the conversation going with a steady stream of op-eds on the topic.
Screenshot from communityimpact.com, reading: Editor’s note: Community Impact Newspaper has been following the paid sick leave issue since the city began gathering input for a potential citywide ordinance. Throughout Community Impact Newspaper‘s reporting, viewpoints from all sides of the issue have been expressed. Please click this link to find all previous coverage on this issue.
Balanced reporting can happen over time, but readers don’t always see the full breadth of your coverage. An editor’s note can draw attention to the wide variety of sources you’ve interviewed—and highlight your promise to keep sharing a range of perspectives.
Screenshot from a Discourse Media newsletter
At Discourse, newsletters allow reporters the freedom to show more personality than they do in finished pieces. Here, the reporter shares how her goals, her sourcing, and some practical limitations (juggling deadlines!) shapes her reporting on a topic. Abundantly linking can also help readers follow along on their own.
Screenshot from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram page on Facebook. The image says: Readers, what do you want to see from us this year?
Meet readers where they are—on social media—to make it easy for them to share feedback and story ideas you might have missed. Responding to comments gave the Star-Telegram team additional opportunities to learn about their audience, share their ethics and values, and highlight recent coverage.
Screenshot from the Christian Science Monitor page on Facebook.
Planning a big story? Let readers chime in with the questions they’d like to see answered. The Christian Science Monitor saw “validation that our audience likes to be a part of the process” when they introduced their interns, shared their own goals for covering an upcoming political event, and prompted readers to share what they’d ask. They also set clear expectations of how reader questions would be used.

Remind your community about your mission and purpose. Tell them you work on behalf of the public. Use specific language and strong words, like watchdog and investigation, rather than hoping those concepts are clear.

Shares are often highest when information is seen as being in the public interest. Also, try suggesting specific types of friends users might want to share with, in terms of demographics, interests, opinions, etc.
This post got 3,500+ shares. Shares are often highest when information is seen as being in the public interest. (Also, try suggesting specific types of friends users might want to share with, in terms of demographics, interests, opinions, etc.) News consumers do not always give journalists credit for having a public service mission. The trust-building language turned this story from a simple day turn about a food recall into public service information that was helping keep the community healthy and safe. 
Ogden behind the scenes pornography
With big stories, take time to introduce the staff behind the scenes. Use it as an opportunity to explain why you did a story, what questions you set out to answer and how it came together.
Themes:
Watch how users share your posts. Sometimes the best conversation happens on their shares, not on the original post.
Watch how users share your posts. Sometimes the best conversation happens on their shares, not on the original post. Also, questions that are personal or especially controversial work best if your users already are used to talking to you. You might need to build up to these conversations if you want them to be constructive.
WCPO addiction story
WCPO highlighted their commitment to their community in a Facebook post when they shared a link to a story about heroin addiction. They focused on how this particular story is one of hope.
Enid overdue bills scam
News consumers do not always give journalists credit for having a public service mission. You can encourage sharing and reinforce your mission by emphasizing how your news is in the public interest. 

Newsy Trump coverage

Look for chances to tie individual coverage to your organization’s mission. In this case, Newsy didn’t just share a fact check. They used the words “fact check” to make sure the point came across, and they reinforced their core principles.

Newsy Native Americans
627 likes on a comment! Look for opportunities to explain your process, especially when you see commenters asking questions about it. This comment shows a thoughtfulness behind word choices that not all news consumers would assume journalists have. This example also shows the value of staying involved in the conversations we host and participating in them.
Themes: