After two back-to-back shootings in Kenosha that garnered national attention, the Milwuakee Journal Sentinel wrote a column answering reader questions and explaining it’s reporting process, including why they didn’t report on the criminal record of the victims involved in both situations. “Our natural instinct as journalists is to report what we know. But that instinct has to be tempered by the demands of accuracy and fairness,” the column read. “Sometimes we must wait until we can independently verify a detail to ensure its accuracy. Other times, certain details aren’t relevant to what’s being reported, whether true or not, and including them might color a story unfairly.” The newsroom also posted the column in a Q&A style format on its Instagram page, gaining more than 1,000 likes and dozens of comments thanking the paper for its thoughtful coverage.
After facing accusations that a photojournalist altered a photo that showed a crowded bridge in Florida after the SpaceX launch during the coronavirus pandemic, Florida Today wrote a column explaining it wasn’t a fake or old image. In the column they gave details as to how the photographer captured the image, even mentioning that the kind of camera and lense used wouldn’t have compressed the image. “As journalists, we’re big believers in asking questions and seeking to verify information,” editor Mara Bellaby wrote. “But it’s one thing to inquire and quite another to declare ‘Fake News’ and ignore all evidence to the contrary. Evidence like people wearing masks in the photo, other cell phone images shared that showed a similar scene and, finally, common sense.”
While reporting on a controversial police killing of an unarmed black man, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution included a note explaining their approach to covering the story: “Given the intense public interest in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe and how this incident may factor into policy changes and decisions on policing, the AJC has committed to providing the fullest, most complete coverage possible. That includes looking at the actions and backgrounds of both Rolfe and Brooks and how those may have shaped their encounter on Friday night … We will publish more information as soon as we can evaluate what is accurate and relevant, and give the material context, as is our usual practice.”
Station News Channel 5 showed incredible transparency by publically admitting when they showed bias in two similar Facebook posts. The discrepancy came while reporting on arrests of people who were charged with causing damage to the local courthouse: both men were felons, but in a Facebook post, the station referred to the white man by his name, whereas the station referred to the black as a convicted felon. When readers called out the station for what they perceived as implicit bias, instead of ignoring it, the station acknowledged the problem, changed the posts, restated diversity efforts and committed to doing better in the future.
In breaking news situations, we all know that the information we are reporting is the most accurate and best information we have at that moment. But, have we helped our audience navigate fast-changing information? At Trusting News, we have shared with you how some newsrooms try to make this point clear in their reporting. While covering COVID-19, probably the biggest breaking news story of our time, we should all be working to make sure our users are alerted to this fact. We should also be working to help them understand why this is the case. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Several things are true at this strange moment. Our lives feel upside down. People are worried about their health and have a heightened desire to stay informed. The economy is in turmoil. Journalists are stressed and pressed for time (or furloughed or laid off). The financial part of the news business is in a weakened state just when people need journalism most. All of this happening in an information landscape that is complicated and full of pitfalls for both news consumers and journalists. People are skeptical of journalism — sometimes for fair reasons and sometimes based on misassumptions and ignorance about how journalism operates. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Man, there are a lot of coronavirus updates flying around these days. There’s so much to know and understand, and there’s sure not a shortage of news stories. But we know that access to more stories doesn’t always make people feel more informed. Often, it’s the opposite. You might be in a newsroom that sees its mission as sharing every new fact and every new angle in real time. Perhaps that’s why people turn to you in the first place. But for some of you — especially in local news — it’s worth stepping back and thinking about what role you play. In a crowded news ecosystem full of constant, repetitive, overwhelming updates, what do you offer? Some newsrooms are having conversations about focusing on the larger context, and on information that helps people make decisions about their own lives. If you’re in one of them, congratulations! It sounds like the mission of your coverage is clear. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
When faced with a big story, journalists know how to mobilize. We quickly identify angles, send staffers to key locations and set up a system for producing and editing content back in the newsroom. Do most news consumers understand what a commitment of resources that is? Of course not — any more than most of us understand everything that happens at an MLB ballpark on opening day, behind the scenes at a church on Christmas Eve or with a construction crew building a housing development. Unless you’ve been through it, you just can’t picture it. What if offering a window into the complexity of your work could help lend credibility and inspire an appreciation for the efforts? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Breaking news is a term that elicits varied feelings for journalists. It seems to always be a hectic time, with people and information moving at lightning speeds. It’s also when news organizations have an opportunity to fulfill one of their top duties: providing accurate information to the public. While a lot of us thrive and feel an adrenaline rush during breaking news situations, it’s also a time when most mistakes happen. And our audiences notice. To read more from this edition click here and you can sign up for the weekly “Trust Tips” newsletter by clicking here.