No one is expecting things to be “normal” for the remainder of 2020, and the upcoming election is no exception. As I talk to friends and family, they have a lot of anxiety and concerns ahead of Election Day due to all the unknowns surrounding it. And it makes sense — this election looks very different from previous elections. As journalists, we obviously can’t quell all unknowns. (Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have some future vision, though?) But what we can do is help manage our audience’s expectations for election night and beyond. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
While covering recent COVID-19 numbers in their community, the News Tribune posted that the local health department “caved” in releasing numbers related to coronavirus spread. When one of the commenters pointed out that the language sounded biased, editor Gary Castor took the time to respond on Facebook, publically acknowledging it might not have been the best wording: “You are absolutely correct; it was a poor choice of words. I did not see the post before it was sent to Facebook, but after seeing it in my feed, I asked that the verb be changed. The story has since been changed to say the department relented to the repeated requests of the city.”
After incorrect information was spreading in the community about how city officials were allegedly hiding Coronavirus numbers from the public, the Tennessean wrote a fact check countering the misinformation. The story addressed the misinformation and explained where the confusion was. By correcting the record the newsroom was able to demonstrate to their readers that they care about getting things right.
In order to make voting information easily accessible for readers, the Fulcrum created a voter FAQ that had information about how to make sure voter registration is up-to-date, how to find polling places and what voting rights the public has.
As schools in Philadelphia were having discussions about opening in the fall amidst the coronavirus outbreak, Chalkbeat reached out to its audience to get their feedback on the issue. “Chalkbeat wants to gain perspective from parents, students, and school staff. Tell us your feedback, concerns, and lingering questions below,” the post read.
FiveThirtyEight included a disclaimer alongside an election poll they ran to clarity that while polls can be helpful benchmark ahead of the election, it can’t possibly predict the outcome of any election. “Before we proceed further, one disclaimer about the scope of the model: It seeks to reflect the vote as cast on Election Day, assuming that there are reasonable efforts to allow eligible citizens to vote and to count all legal ballots, and that electors are awarded to the popular-vote winner in each state. It does not account for the possibility of extraconstitutional shenanigans by Trump or by anyone else, such as trying to prevent mail ballots from being counted,” the disclaimer read.
Colorado Public Radio wrote a column about how the newsroom planned to cover the 2020 election. The post starts off strong by addressing the perception that news has an institutional bias. “At CPR News, our mission is to serve all Coloradans, not a partisan sliver. As the election approaches, we wanted to explain more thoroughly what we’re doing to earn your trust every day.” It then lists the questions it will address and links to each, which accomplishes two things: It lets readers on the page skip to a section they’re interested in and it lets the staff use the links to answer specific questions as they come up in stories and social posts.
The News Tribune included an editor’s note at the top of their coverage that stated the newsroom’s mission with their elections content, where to see all the election content, and how to contact the newsroom. “The News Tribune reports on elections to equip community members with the tools they need to participate in democracy. That includes sharing candidates’ positions on important issues and making information about the voting process accessible,” the note reads.
PEN America wrote a guide for how to talk to friends and family who share misinformation, including how to verify information and avoid escalation on social media. “While some people create and spread disinformation—false information shared with the intent to deceive others—your friends and family may well spread misinformation, which is shared by people who may not know the information is false. They probably think the content is true, and they may feel they’re sharing something important. That can make it tough to know how to confront them. Here are a few suggestions.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Austin Statesman included a statement about their commitment to diversity and included it on the newsroom’s “About Us” page. The statement read: “When reporting a story, we seek out diversity of opinion to tell that story more completely. When provided with information from one source, we consider who might think differently or have additional information that could reveal a clearer picture. We fact-check what people tell us.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
WCPO asked their users what they wanted to know from candidates ahead of their elections reporting.”Usually, the journalists are the ones who ask the questions. Especially during election season, when campaigns often tell constituents what the campaigns want to tell them, instead of what the constituents want to hear,” senior reporter Larry Seward wrote in a column about the station’s efforts. “So that’s why we want to flip things around this year. We want to know what YOU want to know. We created the form below so that we could build an engagement map for how our viewers want these campaigns covered.” Seward said the public responses brought up questions for candidates the reporters wouldn’t have otherwise asked.
The Green Bay Press Gazette wrote a story detailing it’s “Letters to the Editor” process ahead of the 2020 Election. In the guidelines, the newsroom states it’s purpose with publishing political letters earlier in the year than they normally would: “We will publish letters to the editor related to local, state and national campaigns. With many citizens voting early, we want the conversation to begin sooner than normal.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
With much of the public overwhelmed by news in 2020, it’s important to provide information in accessible ways. Here’s an example of how the Wisconsin Green Bay Press Gazette did that. The newsroom created a voter guide that had all voting and election information in one story that was easy to navigate. In the guide, the newsroom links to voter registration information, endorsements, and previous coverage of candidates and ballot issues. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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WCPO created an Elections Guide that contained all the basic election information in one place, including how to request a mail-in ballot, how to register to vote, and key dates to know ahead of the election. By providing easy-to-find answers to basic election questions, you can build trust with your users and maybe even pick up new ones.
The Colorado Sun wrote a columnn about their newsroom’s approach to the 2020 elections, which included how they work to be fair, why they are trustworthy and how they decide what election news to cover — and not cover. “Our mission is to inform more than infuriate by telling stories that hold elected officials accountable and help readers better understand what’s happening within the state’s democratic institutions and political arena,” the column reads. “This particularly applies to our 2020 election coverage.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
After a controversial story about President Trump that cited an anonymous source published in The Atlantic, editor and chief of The Deseret Dave Wilks used the opportunity to write about the history of anonymous sources and explain The Deseret’s policy on the matter. Wilks wrote that at The Deseret, “a reporter must reveal his or her sources to an editor before we consider publication. I am involved as executive editor on key stories and revelations attributed to anonymous sources. Often our response to the reporter is, keep reporting. Find on-the-record sources.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Before the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published Q&A’s with candidates running for open seats in Georgie, they asked their readers to share their questions, they might want to be included in the questionnaires. “What issues are most important to you? And what would you ask candidates if you had the chance? Your suggestions could be included in our questionnaires and/or contribute to other election stories.”
After WCPO decided not to disclose the identity of a student who hosted a party despite being diagnosed with COVID-19, the station’s content manager Ted Wilson wrote a column explaining their decision and the journalism ethics associated with it. “Often, the journalist’s job is not just to report the facts but also to balance the impact of their reporting among all the stakeholders in a story,” Wilson wrote. “In this case, WCPO 9 News chose to report what happened while trying to respect the privacy rights of the accused.”
After the police chief in Tulsa made accusations on Twitter that the media was “bored” after violence didn’t break out at a local protest, journalists in Tulsa responded by defending their work as journalists. “Bored? I slept less this weekend than most because I was engaged. I heard incredible stories. Saw amazing gestures. Watched people stand up for what they believe in. And I was thankful that no one was injured, including myself and my colleagues,” reporter Whitney Bryen, a reporter at Oklahoma Watch, Tweeted. “For the record, I do this very difficult job because of the injustices and violence that are perpetrated, to bring them to light and educate readers so they can act. I never wish for violence. That is the worst part of my job.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
As journalists, it’s not our job to protect the public from information that is hard to hear or might increase their stress. But it is worth considering whether our journalism contributes to or assuages their anxiety. We can choose to air a highlight reel of chaos, or we can choose to provide calm, measured context. As this year’s election unfolds, that means reminding the public what we expect to see, what is unusual, what safeguards are in place, how long it will likely take for votes to be counted and what they can do to protect their own vote and stay informed. A significant chunk of your audience is probably exhausted by news coverage. Back in February, a Pew Research Center survey showed that two-thirds of U.S. adults are worn out by the news. And it’s fair to say the volume of news hasn’t decreased this year! So, how can journalists respond to that mood in a way that respects the experience of consuming their product? In a crowded, exhausting information landscape, how can your journalism stand out as a responsible, important part of your audience’s information diet? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
How do you decide what to cover? How do you work to be fair? What sources do you trust? When it comes to elections coverage, the kind of transparency we advocate for is especially important. You’re working (really hard, we imagine) to provide a public service and contribute to a healthy democracy, and your audience should know that. Take some inspiration from this FAQ that Colorado Public Radio put together about election coverage. We’ll share some highlights here, but the whole thing is recommended reading. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Many of you probably get accused of having a liberal bias — of publishing more “negative” content about conservative politicians and of reporting more favorably on progressive ideas and candidates. I’m guessing you probably want your audience to know you work hard to be fair. And I am guessing you stand behind your coverage. If so, where’s your evidence? Remember, it’s reasonable for news consumers to be frustrated by partisan information, overwhelmed with choices and confused about what news to trust. It’s laudable for them to ask you to provide evidence of your credibility. Their skepticism and caution are appropriate. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Political polls are a lot to navigate: There are new ones continually. They seem to contradict each other. It’s hard to know which ones to trust, or if we should even bother paying attention. As journalists, we learn how much credence to give polls. We learn to look for independence in the pollsters (financial and political). We inspect their methodology. But are you explaining any of that? Doing so could build trust in your methods and can also help your audience be more educated consumers of polling data. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
The San Antonia Report created a standing page on its website to explain the newsroom’s policy in regards to advertising and sponsored content. The page describes the difference between the two types of content and is clear in stating how each type of content will be labeled and appear on the website.
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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote a column explaining why they would no longer be sharing the number of precincts reported on election day. The column explains that in the past, this was a good indication of how many votes were counted, but with an increase in absentee ballots, it is no longer an accurate way to estimate how many votes need to be counted. While a small change, explaining it helps the newsroom increase transparency with their audience while quelling confusion or possible misassumptions.
Staff at KBOO in Oregon redid their About page, which included the station’s mission statement, information about staff, how it operates, it’s journalistic values, and how audience members can share feedback. The station also included a specific section about the newsroom’s commitment to facts and unbiased election coverage. “During our election coverage we will be focusing on stories that provide you the facts and context you need to make informed decisions. We promise to focus on information that is helpful and not exaggerated, sensationalized or politicized,” the page reads.
After facing viewer questions about political ads, WCPO’s general manager Jeff Brogan wrote a column explaining how political advertising works for broadcasters. In the column he explains the FCC rules for political advertising and how the station is legally not allowed to edit or alter ads ads they recieve from candidates. “WCPO 9 and our parent company, E.W. Scripps, support the freedom of speech principles of the First Amendment, which emphasize a robust and open debate about the political process,” Brogan writes. “Although some of today’s political action committees might use aggressive tactics during the campaign season, their ads fall under free speech and have a right to be on a broadcast.”
During election season, people can be inundated with political advertisements — from candidates, parties, PAC’s and other groups. If you publish or air any of these ads (which most news organizations do) you probably have received complaints about them from your users. Some may be confused as to why this is showing up on your station. Others may be upset about the content inside the ads. And they might be jumping to incorrect or unfair conclusions about you. While some people may understand that your news organization is airing or publishing the ads just as you would with any other business (a car dealership or ice cream shop), too many people don’t actually understand how it works. They may have questions like: Why are you choosing to run ads from certain groups? Are the ads edited or changed before you air or publish them? Do you get the final say in what you publish/air? Is anyone fact-checking them? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
When we begin work with a newsroom or journalist, we often start by asking: What gets in the way of trust with your specific audience? The themes we see nationally (here’s a slide deck of national research) often show up locally, but there are usually misassumptions, complaints or frustrations specific to a local relationship and community. We take those themes and look for what we think of as information gaps, or opportunities to earn trust. What do people not understand about our ethics, our motivation for doing the work, our processes and our business? Where is an opportunity for us to earn trust by explaining those things? After all, if we’re losing credibility because people don’t understand what we do, whose responsibility is it to fill in those information gaps? Who’s going to solve that problem if not us? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
During racial unrest in the country after George Floyd’s death, Crosscut recognized that the newsroom needed to also make adjustments to make sure their staff was accurately representing their community in their coverage. “The Crosscut newsroom is in the process of examining our own policies and practices, including the diversity of our newsroom, and we’re taking a hard look at how we’re applying these journalistic standards to make sure critical perspectives aren’t left out in our pursuit of the truth,” the article read. The newsroom went on to ask for the public’s help and input in keeping them accountable to make these changes: “We need your input because our mission is to earn and deepen trust, which is not the same thing as getting us all to agree. But if you find yourself unable to find credibility in what we say, we want to hear why and explore how we can do better.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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.
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When an NPR interview didn’t go far enough to hold a public official accountable who was spreading false information about elections, NPR was transparent and admitted its shortcomings, running a column from standards editor Kelly McBridge about how the station could have done a better job providing context for readers. “Examining this particular segment of this particular interview, gives us a chance to hone our practices. Audience trust presumes we will not air blatant falsehoods. It’s an ongoing exercise to identify and sharpen the skills and tools necessary to place false information into a truthful context,” McBride wrote. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Wirecutter at the New York Times wrote a column explaining the website had removed previous reporting with outdated information from the CDC about the need for wearing face masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic. “US officials recommend that you wear a mask to try to protect others—and possibly yourself—from the coronavirus. But that hasn’t always been their advice. Because of these changes, some of our reporting from earlier this year has become so outdated that we’ve unpublished it from our site,” the column read. “This is why we’ve taken down our outdated advice and replaced it with this: You should wear a mask to try to protect others—and possibly yourself—from the coronavirus.”
As election season quickly approaches, there is a lot of information (and misinformation) floating around. So have you asked your audience what they might be confused about when it comes to participating in the upcoming election? Maybe you’ve posted to Twitter or Facebook asking users to share general questions or thoughts related to the election, which is one avenue for getting feedback or story ideas. But another great way to open up a conversation with your audience and remind them you’re a community resource is to ask for specific questions — and then answer those questions in real-time. Because of all the recent confusion and conflicting information surrounding voting by mail, staff at The Fulcrum decided they wanted to provide clarity around the issue. So reporters Sara Swann and Bill Theobald hosted a Reddit AMA, or Ask Me Anything, where they asked their readers what questions they had about voting by mail and voting in general during COVID times. The duo ended up responding to dozens of thoughtful reader questions, ranging from how long it could take to get results to what protocols are being put into place to safeguard the voting by mail process. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Consuming news has felt especially challenging these days. Not only are the news events themselves hard to digest, but we’re also at a level of total information overload. Mix that with widely shared conspiracy theories and politicized public health information and you get a confusing and overwhelming output of news circulating on social media feeds. And man, sometimes it can be really hard to tell which of that content is real, agenda-driven or altogether untrue. Even as a trained journalist and a self-described skeptic, I’ve been duped by seemingly credible articles shared by friends or family, or doctored screenshots of the president’s tweets that at first glance were really believable. So think about how frustrating it must be for folks who are trying to get good, accurate information about their communities but don’t have the knowledge or training to decipher what’s credible information and what’s not? And how can we expect that same audience to trust the news we’re producing when there is indeed bad information out there that shouldn’t be trusted? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
How do you describe conspiracy theories like QAnon to your audience? How about candidates for office who amplify or adhere to those theories? This is tricky territory for journalists. As the American Press Institute’s Susan Benkelman wrote last week: If you are in the business of trying to publish what’s true, how do you treat things that are untrue without amplifying them? When is the right time to write about them and what is the right way to describe them accurately? How do you decide which ones are not worth debunking and which are? In an age of social media, how do you do all this without inadvertently encouraging the spread of falsehoods? Benkelman’s piece is full of concrete advice and example language to use when making coverage decisions about dangerous, false messages. (As a reminder, Trusting News is a project of both API and the Reynolds Journalism Institute.) The piece also links to a running list of congressional candidates who have embraced QAnon’s messaging, sorted by state. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
We talk about how elections work all the time in our reporting, but do you ever notice how a lot of those explanations are often woven into the middle of stories? They’re sandwiched between good quotes and are part of a larger tale we’re telling. That’s not always bad, of course. A good story that has characters and is engaging can grab people’s attention and keep them reading or watching or listening. But, does it help them understand the topic we are covering in the best way? While trying to tell a story, are we providing them with the basic definitions and explanations they need to really understand the story in the first place? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
At Trusting News, we’re often asked by newsrooms how we know our strategies work. It’s an important question. We’re always happy to point to examples of what newsrooms say is effective but we’re also especially grateful when we have the chance to work with academic researchers. Through a series of focus groups, Trusting News and the Center for Media Engagement found that TV newsrooms can build trust with their audiences by explaining why a story is covered, providing additional resources at the end of stories and inviting audience participation. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
After receiving complaints and feedback that they were biased in their coverage, the Coloradoan’s content strategies Jennifer Hefty wrote a column explaining that yes, they were biased, but biased toward facts, public safety, and toward bettering the community. “In short, yes we have biases: Not of the political nature, but toward public safety and facts,” Hefty wrote in a Facebook post. Hefty’s column also went on to address questions and feedback about the newsroom’s coronavirus coverage, shedding light on their reporting process and the newsroom’s continued mission of fairness and accuracy. “Our newsroom has changed — from our physical location to how we stagger shifts to provide more coverage while working with reduced staffing. Our stories have changed — we shifted away from long-term plans to better cover the rapidly-developing pandemic,” Hefty wrote. “Two things that have not changed: Our ethical principles and our commitment to transparency with you, our readers.”
Community Impact Newspaper reporter Emma Freer wrote a column explaining to readers the paper’s coverage process when it comes to reporting on new businesses opening, closing and relocating in the community. The column explains the ways they find out about businesses opening or closing, how they confirm the information and what goes into publishing the story. Oftentimes, audiences also assume that money is involved in the coverage of local businesses. To level up, the organization could’ve also set the record straight by stating that money is not a factor when making these decisions. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
At Trusting News, we think it’s vitally important that our industry understand people’s perceptions of journalism and the climate in which our work is consumed. Only when we do that can we proactively correct the narrative around our work. Thanks to researchers, we’re able to point to data, not just gut feelings, when we try to make sense of what people think of us and our work. We’ve pulled together a few key facts about how news is perceived. We hope this will be useful as you consider your election coverage. You can find more curated facts about trust in news in this slide deck. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.

 

KING 5 anchors Joyce Taylor and Mark Wright showed incredible humanity, transparency and humility by having an honest conversation on air reflecting on lessons they had learned from their inter-racial friendship. “Joyce and I have sat next to each other for years, I can’t even count the number of discussions we’ve had about race and racism,” Wright said. “My eyes have been opened so much to what white privilege is. I’ve never had to have a discussion with my boys about what to do if the cops pull them over … Joyce, you’ve opened my eyes that this is life for people of color in our country,” Wright said. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
During major news situations, like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy for audiences to feel overwhelmed and then tune out. The LAist countered this by providing one spot with contextualized information and answers to basic questions about the pandemic all in one place, making it so users don’t have to sift through a bunch of different updates to find the most relevant and important information.
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.”
In the midst of covering protests in Cincinnati, WCPO director Mike Canan wrote a column reminding their users of their journalist’s dedication to providing fair coverage for their community by discussing how they were putting themselves in the middle of it all — risking danger from protests and the police while also facing the danger of contracting COVID. “At the same time, the middle is where we have to be. We need to be out there reporting,” Canan wrote. “But we also need to be showing both sides. We need to accurately and fairly reflect what is happening in our community.”
News 5 Cleveland wrote a story explaining why they don’t report on police scanner traffic even though it’s technically public information. “We don’t report on scanner traffic because relying only on those initial reports increases the likelihood that the story will be incomplete, untrue or devoid of what is so essential in any breaking news story — context,” the station’s digital director Joe Donatelli wrote. “A resident, a dispatcher or a first responder arriving on scene does not have a complete view of what has occurred.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Instead of leaving it up to their audience to guess why they sometimes don’t include police descriptions of suspects in breaking news stories, Digital Director of News 5 Cleveland Joe Donatelli wrote a column explaining the station’s process: “When a news organization offers only racial and gender identifiers as part of its news reports for years, or decades, what is the more likely outcome: that these extremely vague descriptions will better inform the public, or that we will be a party to unintentionally perpetuating stereotypes? In our judgment, sharing vague descriptions that are of little value repeatedly to a mass audience does more harm than good.” The station also has a link to their explainers that touch on newsroom process all in one place, which not only makes it easily accessible for users but also demonstrates to their audience they are willing to be transparent around their ethics, values and processes. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
ProPublica wrote a thoughtful explanation of why they decided to publish a disturbing video of a suspect who died while in police custody. The explanation also addresses the ethics of publishing their investigation without family cooperation: “In the end, we have come down on the side of giving the fullest possible account of what our story terms “a recurrent tragedy — a person in mental crisis dying in law enforcement custody. This video could be traumatizing to those who see it. It depicts the harsh treatment of yet another person of color at the hands of law enforcement. Some have argued that the media should stop releasing video of law enforcement officials inflicting harm on black or brown bodies. While recognizing that viewpoint, we hope that the significance of this story outweighs the pain it causes.” The newsroom also prominently linked to the explanation on the story page so that anytime someone interacts with the story for the first time, they’re invited to learn more about the ethics and process behind it. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Josie Hollingsworth, the engagement editor for Politifact, created a video that explained to users how the organization decides what to fact-check. Hollingsworth said people frequently ask the Politifact team how they pick which claims to fact check, so now going forward, their team can quickly link to the video whenever the question comes up.
Indiana Daily Student Editor Tristan Jackson wrote a column sharing that the paper was no longer going to show photos that identified people involved in protests over the killing of George Floyd. Jackson said he recognized there was a growing concern over the well being of protesters, which is why the paper was breaking their normal policy and removed any already published photos that identified protesters. “How we as journalists cover these protests is an ongoing discussion, but right now as a human being I think we have an obligation to protect others from potential harm,” Jackson wrote. “Editorial judgment must be used in balancing this guideline with seek truth and report it, which is something I took into account in making this decision.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
During an on-air broadcast, WCPO News Director Mike Canan responded to a few complaints that said the station replayed the video footage of George Floyd’s being killed under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer too many times. “We generally avoid sharing the last moments of people’s lives. In the instance we would use it, it is to establish a key moment … You can make that point by sharing that video one time, not four times,” Canan said.
Journalists are human, which means we sometimes make mistakes. But it’s up to us to own up to those mistakes and ask the audience to help hold us accountable to doing better in the future. This is exactly what the Philadelphia inquirer did after they wrote a headline that suggested an equivalence between the loss of buildings and the lives of Black Americans. In a column addressing the issue, editors at the paper called the headline unacceptable and shared how the paper’s editing and headline writing process had been working, and how they were adjusting it in order to avoid similar situations in the future. “In addition to our readers and the Philadelphia community, we apologize to the many employees of the Philadelphia Inquirer, whose work selling advertising, printing the paper and developing Inquirer.com enables our journalism,” the editors wrote. “We hear you and will continue to listen as we work to improve.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
KPRC in Houston created a form where their audience could reach out and ask reporters to fact-check suspicious claims seen on social media. The station also set expectations for when users should expect a response when asking for feedback: “Due to volume, we can’t respond to everyone, but we use all shared information to track trends and find the best places to intercede with reporting and stories.”
Have you explained how your organization’s ownership affects or doesn’t affect, the content you produce? The Weather Company did this by including a note at the bottom of their stories: “The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.” 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.
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.”
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.”
WJXT4 anchor Vic Micolucci used Facebook to explain the station’s approach to local coverage. In the post, he reminded users that he’s a part of the Jacksonville community, he’s committed to sharing the most accurate, up-to-date information and he doesn’t like to see the local community hurting. “I don’t hate police officers. Or protesters. I’m friends with people on both sides of the line. Every person is different. I don’t want small businesses to fail or people to lose their jobs. I don’t want people to get sick. I don’t want unrest,” Micolucci wrote. “I WANT to share good news. And I do. The 9am show I anchor has a lot of positive stories daily. However, as a journalist, I have to report on crisis, concerns and controversy. If I don’t, who will?” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Journalists like certainty. They like to ask questions and provide answers. But what should they do about the questions they can’t get answers to — either because the information isn’t available or because the questions are unanswerable? A common practice is to address what is known and leave out what is unknown. But that’s not always the best option when it comes to building trust. We know that when news consumers don’t understand the choices journalists make, the conclusions they reach are often not flattering ones. They’re not giving us the benefit of the doubt. Instead, they sometimes assume an agenda that involves highlighting some facts or story angles and purposefully suppressing others. Think about all the times you see comments like, “of course they won’t tell us that part of the story …” or “they must not want us to know …” By being upfront about things that aren’t yet known, journalists can remove some of that speculation and assure their audiences they’re continuing to ask the important questions. This is especially important when covering big, controversial stories — like elections, public health crises and protests. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.

 

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.
To improve transparency with users, the Philadelphia Inquirer started a series in one of their local newsletters where they take users behind to scenes so they can learn more about the newsroom’s process. The topics ranged from how breaking news works to why they have an opinion section.
KPRC 2 in Houston published a story where they put all their frequently asked questions about COVID-19 from viewers. The story included answers to questions like how the virus spreads to testing sites to how ventilators worked. By compiling user feedback and questions in one central place, the station can easily link to it whenever they get questions about coronavirus in the future.
KPRC 2 in Houston noticed that they were receiving the same questions and criticisms from viewers whenever they ended a live stream of President Trump’s press conferences early. In response, news director Dave Strickland wrote a column explaining why the station hadn’t been airing the full live press conferences. “During the past of weeks or so, the president’s press conferences have moved away from emergency information. At that point, I have made the decision to leave the press conference and return to regular programming. I have made similar decisions during the county judge and Houston’s mayor’s news conferences as well as Governor Greg Abbott’s pressers,” Strickland wrote. “The bottom line is that KPRC Channel 2 will continue to air these press conferences during this national emergency. How long we stay with each of the individuals is determined by how much critical information is being delivered by the government during the news conferences.”
In a breaking news story, KPRC 2 in Houston included a note in their story that mentioned the station’s approach to handling police chases. The station explained they often included a 4-5 second delay while live streaming police chases so “producers can catch anything violent or inappropriate before our audience might see it. Also, this helps our producers make a decision about whether to broadcast this sort of material.”
Whether it is poor word choice in a story, an accuracy issue or a spelling error, a mistake is every journalist’s nightmare. Why? Because we all work so hard to prevent them from happening in the first place. And sometimes “messing up” is less about a factual error and more about taking a hard look at what you did and realizing it could be better. Maybe a headline was accurate, but was it fair? Was it appropriate given the full context of a story? Sometimes those conversations around fairness and bias can be more difficult to address than an inaccuracy in a story. Your willingness to have these conversations and admit the mistake can be worthwhile though. How you fix the mistake — and your willingness to talk about the mistake with your users — can tell your community a lot about who your journalists are and what you value as a news organization. It can also be an opportunity to build trust. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Personally, I’ve had a hard time articulating how I feel as I see the pain, anger, support and sadness pour from communities around the country. The news appears on my phone in a constant stream of push alerts. It’s also in my social media feeds as images, videos and raw emotional thoughts from friends and family — but also from a lot of people I do not know but feel I relate to, depending on the moment. I think it is important for us to remind ourselves: These feelings are normal. These feelings are shared. These feelings are human. As journalists, I think we sometimes forget that. We put those human feelings to the side as we do our jobs. As we report on what we see, we push back feelings so we do not let them impair our ability to fairly and accurately share what we are seeing. But, we have to remember that we are people. People with families and friends. We are people who worry about issues, the future, our communities and our safety. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Part of being a trusted news source is reliably providing the information people most need. That might seem obvious to say, but it’s worth reflecting on these days. Many people are feeling an enormous level of confusion when making basic decisions and are struggling to understand the state of the world. They are balancing national news coverage with what they see in their own communities and wading through conflicting and contradicting versions of reality. As journalists, we can’t always share facts that bring clarity. Sometimes, our reporting reveals just how much isn’t known. But we can demonstrate that we are paying focused, prolonged attention to the questions that matter most. We can organize our pandemic coverage around ways to shed light on what is known and not known about the status of COVID-19 in your coverage area. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here. 
Station WEWS in Cleveland wrote a story directly addressing that misinformation was being spread on social media around how deaths related to COVID-19 were being reported. In the article, the newsroom tried to set the record straight by breaking down how reporters got information from the CDC and explaining how the county was tracking coronavirus cases and deaths. The station also reminded the public that neither health officials nor the media were trying to manipulate case numbers: “Despite what you may read in comments sections and on some questionably-sourced websites, health agencies are not conspiring to over-report or under-report COVID-19 deaths; their goal is to accurately report the disease’s impact on our communities.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
When station WLNS wrote a story about a suicide, which the organization normally doesn’t do, they included a disclaimer in the story text itself explaining why this case was an exception. “6 News does not normally report on suicides but given the rumors circulating about this incident, the Clinton County statement is being posted to avoid the spread of misinformation in our community,” the story read. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
ProPublica sent out a newsletter to the people who have supported them financially that talked directly about political bias in news. The organization’s president Richard Tofel, who penned the newsletter, shared that yes, the newsroom has written more stories critical of President Trump than President Obama, and went on to explain in detail why that’s the case. Tofel also was very transparent about what ProPublica’s audience looked like (that it tends to be more liberal) and why they wish they had more conservative and non-white readers. “ProPublica would be more effective if our readership contained a proportion of people of color closer to the population of the country, and if it contained a similar proportion of self-identified conservatives,” Tofel wrote. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Most of us have probably been told that we are one-sided in our coverage. It’s a common complaint, and it can be a tough one to reply to. Especially when it comes to political coverage, we try hard to be fair. Yet those efforts often go unnoticed. The interesting thing is that when we consider what balanced coverage looks like, we are often thinking about it over time. We think about how we interviewed the family of the victim shot last week. So, if we talk to gun rights activists today, we do not necessarily need to hear from gun violence victims again in the same story. But, for the user, who most likely did not see the story from last week, but did see today’s, they may think we are siding with the gun rights activists because they are not hearing from all sides in one story. Despite the steps we take to produce responsible, ethical journalism every day, we’re often not getting credit for those efforts. We don’t draw enough ties between our entire body of coverage. We don’t point out the consistency in our approach, the thoughtfulness behind our decisions or the pains we take to represent multiple sides of an issue fairly. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here. 
At the beginning of Georgia’s Legislative session, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote an article explaining how they were planning on covering the legislature. In the story, they clearly state why it’s important to dedicate so many newsroom resources to the coverage, and also explained why they would be focusing more Republican initiatives. “Both chambers of the Legislature are controlled by Republicans, and the governor and other statewide leaders are also Republicans. That means that issues and bills they push have a far greater chance of becoming law,” the article reads. “As a result, we typically write more stories examining and vetting Republican initiatives than we do bills sponsored by Democrats if they have little chance of passing. When Democrats controlled the Legislature before 2003, the reverse was true.”
In order to improve transparency, The Guardian introduced a policy to signpost older news articles to ensure it was clear to readers when they were reading content from previous years. “Trust is integral in responsible journalism and we take our responsibilities incredibly seriously,” the story states. “It’s not possible to control every action on every platform in the digital world but we believe these steps will make it increasingly difficult for bad actors to use our journalism to the wrong ends and will help everyday readers get clear context around our articles, regardless of when it was published.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
It’s not uncommon for the public to not understand how or why newspapers make political endorsements. The editorial board at the Tennessean tried to explain this by sharing a bit about its fact-gathering and decision-making process in an endorsement supporting a city-wide transportation plan. “After weighing multiple arguments, sponsoring a debate, reading the 55-page plan, holding eight meetings with diverse stakeholders and attending multiple forums, The Tennessean Editorial Board recommends that Metro Nashville voters approve the plan,” the article read.
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.
Do your readers understand how and why you use national reporting from wire services like the Associated Press? During an AMA on WCPO’s Facebook page with their editor Mike Canan, a commenter was making accusations that the paper didn’t have original reporting and was not fact-checking national stories. Canan responded, explaining the station’s policy for using wire stories: “We fact check local stories. We rely on news partners like the AP for national and international stories. We have an entire team of hard-working, real journalists. Our job is to cover the local news. So we focus our journalists on those tasks and rely on our news partners for coverage that is outside of our area.”
At the beginning of Georgia’s Legislative session, the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote an article explaining how they were planning on covering the legislature. In the story, they clearly state why it’s important to dedicate so many newsroom resources to the coverage, and also explained why they would be focusing more Republican initiatives. “Both chambers of the Legislature are controlled by Republicans, and the governor and other statewide leaders are also Republicans. That means that issues and bills they push have a far greater chance of becoming law,” the article reads. “As a result, we typically write more stories examining and vetting Republican initiatives than we do bills sponsored by Democrats if they have little chance of passing. When Democrats controlled the Legislature before 2003, the reverse was true.”
While reporting on the House impeachment vote again President Trump, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution included a box on the front page of its print paper that clearly stated how they were striving to provide fair coverage. “To ensure our impeachment coverage continues to be balanced, we used the same format on the front page and on A7 for the Senate vote as we did the House vote on Dec. 18,” the box read.
As journalists, we interact with a lot of people in our community. What if, after each of those interactions, the person walked away with something tangible that invited them to get to know the newsroom better? The Herald & Review did this by creating a handout about their newsroom titled “4 ways you can help the Herald & Review cover your community.” The handout was simple and easy to digest but included a lot of good information, including how users could share feedback, support the paper, join the conversation themselves, or meet the journalists in person. The bottom of the handout also included direct contact information for the editor in chief, along with a photo, helping make the journalists in the newsroom feel accessible and human.
When the heartbreaking photos of a young dad and his toddler who drowned trying to cross the border into the United States emerged, news organizations had to make the difficult decision of whether they would show the graphic photo alongside their reporting. When USA TODAY made the call that they would run the photo, standards editor Manny Garcia wrote a column explaining the reasoning behind the decision. “This is a story that must be told — fully and truthfully, with context and perspectives from all sides … Death is a constant along the border, but rarely is it captured in such a direct way,” Garcia wrote. It’s likely the column got much less traffic than the actual news story itself, leading to the assumption that a lot of readers didn’t see or know the level of thought the paper put behind this decision to run the graphic photo. To level up, we recommend including a sentence about their decision and linking to the column in the caption of the photo itself. That way the explanation would appear alongside the photo in every story it was attached to.
WCPO decided their newsroom would severely limit the number of crime mugshots it used on its website. Director Mike Canan wrote a column explaining the change, specifically addressing how mugshots often disproportionately represented people of color and people with mental health issues while rarely added to the value of the actual reporting. The station also explicitly listed its new protocol for how it would use mugshots, inviting its audience to hold them accountable to their own standards. “We think it is ethical and responsible without harming our commitment to accurate journalism,” Canan wrote.
When publishing a story about a deadly accident that occurred 40 years ago, the Tampa Bay Times included a box that explained why the paper was reporting on a historical incident and how the story was reported. “The Sunshine Skyway disaster remains one of Florida’s most tragic accidents. To commemorate the 40-year anniversary, we wanted to tell the story of two men who received little recognition for their efforts. The information in this story was gathered over four months, involving multiple interviews,” the box read.
Consuming news can be overwhelming, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak when there seems to be an almost constant stream of updates from various different media outlets. The Philadelphia Inquirer addressed this directly by publishing an article about how the public can be smarter about finding trustworthy news during the pandemic. It included information from media literacy experts, a list of resources for sorting through potentially false or misleading news and strategies to help their users become smarter news consumers. “During a crisis, especially one that affects our lives and livelihoods, it makes sense that we want to know everything. But the quality of information is more important than the quantity,” the article reminded readers. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.

 

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.
When thinking about what it takes to build trust, it’s important to remember that trust involves feelings, not just facts. It involves affective trust, not just cognitive trust. You can’t simply persuade someone to trust you. They have to believe it. Think about who you trust. They are probably people you’ve had an opportunity to get to know and develop a relationship with, right? The same is true when it comes to trust in news organizations. People trust who and what they know and have relationships with. One part of building a relationship is getting to know each other. You can do this in conversations with your audience. (It’s important to invest in interactions.) You can also do this by sharing your brand’s values and stories, and by relating to what your community is feeling and going through.
The San Francisco Chronicle demonstrated transparency by explaining their reporting process for a story about the quick expansion of food delivery services in the city. The paper included the following statement in a box that was attached to the story: “Chronicle reporters interviewed six restaurant owners and four delivery drivers for this story, and contacted 19 restaurants to confirm that their listings on delivery apps were unauthorized. In addition, a Chronicle reporter ordered food from two restaurants listed on Grubhub without their permission to see how the delivery experience would work.”
San Francisco Chronicle columnist John King included a box in one of his stories that helped explain the function of columns and how the reporting process worked. “Like the news articles that The Chronicle publishes, our columns seek to be thoroughly reported, using interviews and data to back up the writer’s observations. But columns allow writers to offer readers their own perspective on the issues they’re examining,” the box read. “John King’s columns on urban design and architecture are drawn from his exploration of the Bay Area landscape as well as research into projects; interviews with planners, designers and residents; and on-site visits.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer used Twitter to highlight some of their best journalism and show the breadth and depth of their work. They tied it to World Press Day and had individual reporters and editors share the work they were most proud of.
Consuming the news is an overwhelming experience. I realize that it feels like we could have said that every day since the 2016 election season, but with coronavirus added to the mix, there is legitimately a lot to know. It’s also true that paying continual attention to breaking news alerts is exhausting. A recent Pew Research Center study found that 71 percent of Americans say they need to take breaks from COVID-19 news, and 43 percent say keeping up with the news makes them feel worse emotionally. We’re also headed into a season of potentially less dramatic coronavirus updates, with new cases and deaths slowing. And as people head into summer (and the temptation to take a break from reality), the tendency to check out from news updates could be high. It’s possible, of course, to find a middle ground — one that helps us stay informed without being consumed by and alarmed by repetitive updates. We can help our communities do that. Journalists can offer a path through the news that avoids both extremes. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here. 
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.
While other news sources were reporting the names of those who were violating Cincinnati’s stay-at-home violations, WPCO Senior Director Mike Canan took the opportunity to differentiate his newsroom’s approach from the competition. Instead of publishing specific names, Canan said he “challenged our team to do more. I wanted context on how law enforcement was making these decisions and what the data was showing. Ultimately, one person’s name is less important to the community as the pattern of behavior,” Canan wrote. “What we found is that mostly the people involved committed other crimes and police simply tacked the stay-at-home violation on.” Canan shared this information in a series of tweets while linking to the story.
The Spokesman-Review took two full pages in the print paper to help give readers a better understanding of how news works. The first, “Newspapers 101,” explained the difference between a newspaper story, an editorial and a column, and how they appear differently in the Review’s daily paper. The second is a brief history of “fake news” and gave readers some basic tools for determining the credibility of news reports. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
As rumors swirled that local journalists had altered photos of beaches reopening in Florida during the coronavirus pandemic, reporter Vic Micolucci of WJXT4 in Jacksonville decided to address accusations directly in a Facebook post. Micolucci included several images and explained the differences between them based on angle, camera and lens choices. “Kindly lay off local journalists working hard to cover a situation. I can assure you almost all of us, my competitors included, have good, honest intentions of keeping you informed and safe, Micolucci wrote. “A helicopter shot looks different from a drone shot which looks different from a telephoto shot which looks different from a smart phone shot. The optics are different. The angles are different. As your car mirrors say, objects may appear further than they are. Use your best judgement.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
When accusations of local journalists altering a photo at a rally were being widely spread on Facebook, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a story that gave a step-by-step look at their reporting process and what actually happened. The story explains how the rumors started, why they gained traction and ends with a plea to the public to help the paper correct misinformation if readers see the rumors on social media. “It is unethical and a violation of Journal Sentinel policy to alter, manipulate or change a news photograph in any way beyond basic toning for reproduction,” the story states. “The Journal Sentinel asks people of goodwill to share the truth about this photo if they see false accusations being shared by friends on their Facebook feeds or other social networks.”
Newsrooms hear a lot of accusations that they use photos and videos to misrepresent or even manipulate reality. We’ve heard from journalists lately wondering whether it’s best to ignore or respond to accusations of “fake news” and photo or video manipulation. We’ve also seen confusion and misassumptions in our own social networks and in comments on news stories when it comes to telling what’s real. Here’s what we at Trusting News want newsrooms to remember in those situations: It’s fair for news consumers to be skeptical. They shouldn’t automatically believe what they see, and it’s genuinely tricky to know which news brands are trustworthy. (Some aren’t.) No one but you is going to explain what makes your own work credible. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
The San Fransisco Chronicle used a story about a lawsuit against the city to explain more of its reporting process to their readers. The paper included a box in the story that gave readers insight into how the reporting was done, including information on how many people the reporter interviewed and reminding users about the extent of the paper’s past coverage on the topic. “Reporter Carolyn Said has interviewed more than two dozen taxi drivers over the past few years about their industry’s implosion since the advent of Uber and Lyft and their struggles to pay their medallion loans. She has written several articles about this issue, also including perspectives from the Municipal Transportation Agency and the city’s taxi companies,” the box read. “Last week she met with two attorneys for the San Francisco Federal Credit Union who provided hundreds of pages of court filings from both the credit union and the city, flagging several items that they viewed as ‘smoking guns.'”
In a story explaining the paper’s endorsements for an upcoming election, the San Fransisco Chronicle included a box that clearly explained what the editorial board was and how the endorsement process worked. “These endorsements are made by the editorial board, which consists of the opinion pages’ writers and editors, after researching the issues and interviewing the candidates,” the box read. The paper also included a link to a column explaining how and why the newspaper makes endorsements.
After publishing an investigative story about how certain businesses were getting tax breaks from the city, the Malheur Enterprise publisher and editor Les Zaitz wrote a column giving readers a step-by-step look at how journalist Pat Caldwell reported the story. Zaitz included information like how the reporter followed up with sources, how he verified information and how he obtained public records. “By sharing the background of how this story evolved, I hope you’ll understand the great care taken to be fair, to get the facts, and tell you something important about your local government,” Zaitz wrote. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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.

 

Saphara Harrell at the Salem Reporter wrote a first-person column about how she covered a shooting inside an Oregon Goodwill. In the column, she pulls back the curtain on her reporting by taking readers through her step-by-step process, including explaining coverage conversations she had with her editor, which public records she obtained and how she verified information from sources. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
After receiving some negative feedback about a story covering a controversial political meme, PA Post editor Russ Walker directly addressed the community concerns in a column. In the post, Walker reminded users of the newsroom’s mission and commitment to providing balanced election coverage of both parties while also explaining why the paper decided to cover this story in the first place. “The staff at PA Post knows we are heading into a contentious election year. While our focus is on covering policy and how government actions affect Pennsylvania citizens, we’ll also be watching the messages and campaign tactics of both parties. How campaigns are waged can tell us — the voters — a lot about how a candidate or party will govern,” Walker wrote. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Themes:
NPR published a searchable database of Standards & Practices Editor Mark Memmott’s columns about newsroom policies. The columns expand on topics from how reporters should ask sources their pronoun preferences to how corrections should be handled. Having these published online not only helps uphold newsroom standards internally but also demonstrates transparency to their audience. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
After hearing allegations and rumors in the community questioning the organization’s quality of work, the publisher of Levittown Now, Tom Sofield, took to Facebook Live to shed some light on the newsroom’s reporting process. Sofield said there was misinformation spreading around the community surrounding a recently published story about the threat of lawsuits in a local school district, and he wanted to set the record straight. In the Facebook Live, he explained how the paper reported the story, including how they fact-checked the story and what public documents they used. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
When The Oklahoman published an investigation into the lack of regulations of midwives in the state, the paper included a video Q&A with the reporter and a written column that expanded on the paper’s reporting process. The column addressed questions such as why the paper looked into this topic in the first place, how the reporters obtained public records, and why they did not name of some families involved in the lawsuit, even though it was public information. “As investigative journalists, our job is to tell in-depth stories that make communities safer, healthier and more knowledgeable. When we invest many months in stories like this, it’s because we uncover information that we think the public needs to know and can’t find anywhere else,” the column read. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Globe and Mail added expandable, in-article explainers on their website to provide more information and context about their reporting process within the stories themselves. “The transparency aspect of the feature sheds light on newsroom conversations happening at the Globe around what the reporting standards and guidelines are,” an article sharing the changes said. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Toronto Star updated the newsroom’s online glossary to include labels that clearly distinguish news reporting from paid or sponsored content. “The Star is committed to the principle that our audiences should not be confused about the distinction between our journalism – news and editorial content – and our advertising and other paid content,” the glossary said. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
When the student newspaper The Echo was writing about possible Title IX violations at its school, the paper included an editor’s note at the bottom of the story to let readers know about possible conflicts of interest. “It should be noted that because of Cal Lutheran’s small enrollment, some of our editors have personal connections with individuals mentioned in this article; however, involvement with reporting for anyone with a prior relationship was minimized. This article was reviewed by two media law experts including Sharon Docter, a professor of communication at Cal Lutheran.” 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.
The Colorado Sun included Civil Credibility Indicators on its website to be more transparent about its reporting process. In this specific story, the indicators let readers know there was original and in-person reporting, and that all sources quotes in the story were fact-checked and deemed as credible. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Journalists at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed their support of the community by making a video to thank the workers who are helping during the coronavirus outbreak and don’t have the option of staying home. “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution would like to thank all of the people who aren’t able to work from home during the COVID-19 outbreak. We appreciate their sacrifice,” the video reads.
When quoting an anonymous source in an article about the spread of COVID-19 at a local nursing home, the San Fransisco Chroncile included a box that explained what an anonymous source is and the newsroom’s policies for using them. “The Chronicle strives to attribute all information we report to credible, reliable, identifiable sources. Presenting information from an anonymous source occurs extremely rarely, and only when that information is considered crucially important and all other on-the-record options have been exhausted,” the box read. “In such cases, The Chronicle has complete knowledge of the unnamed person’s identity and of how that person is in position to know the information.”
In a story about presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, the San Fransisco Chroncicle inserted language in the story to tell readers how and why they were covering Democratic presidential candidates, and how the paper was striving to provide equal coverage. “The Chronicle is examining how California would look if the major Democratic presidential candidates were elected and could implement their top policy priorities,” the box read. “Candidates’ positions are taken from their websites, their campaign comments, and in some cases legislation they have sponsored in office.”
In partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network, the Atlantic-Journal constitution shifted the focus of its editorial pages to be more solutions-based during the coronavirus outbreak. Managing editor Mark Waligore explained the change in a column, saying that with politics becoming more polarized, the paper wanted to shift its focus on solving community problems during the pandemic. “Given all that has happened, we believe the changes we’ve made to the Opinion pages are the right approach at the right time,” Waligore wrote. “We hope they can serve as a gathering spot, of sorts. A place to share your personal stories. A place to swap ideas and look for answers. A place that brings us together, rather than divides us.”
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.”
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.
After facing accusations that a photojournalist altered a photo that showed a closed beach packed with people during the coronavirus pandemic, the Caller-Times wrote a column exculpating the photo. “We often face criticism and recognize people are entitled to opinions about what and how we cover the news. It comes with the territory. It also doesn’t change the facts. That’s why we typically let it roll on by and focus on what’s important: informing our community,” editor Mary Ann Cavazos Beckett wrote. “But when several people continued to spread false information about how and when the beach photo was taken it became concerning.” Beckett also explained and linked to the paper’s ethics policy and mission statement, reminding their audience of the paper’s commitment to accuracy and the community.
The NYTimes added an editor’s note to the top of the story about parenting during the coronavirus pandemic to explain how the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might change. “As coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, we’re working to answer the questions on many parents’ minds. This is a fast-moving situation, so some information may be outdated,” the note read. “For the latest updates, read The New York Times’s live coronavirus coverage here.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
After getting questions and complaints from readers, WEWS used clear language to explain to viewers why the numbers of people who recover from COVID-19 aren’t shared alongside the death counts in Ohio. Digital producer Ian Cross wrote a column to explain: “So to answer the question: There is no conspiracy by the media to suppress good news about the coronavirus, as some have suggested. It’s a simple matter of available data.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Toronto Star includes a “trust ribbon” at the bottom of their stories that allow readers to either submit an error or click through to read the Star’s ethics code. By including this, the paper shows it is committed to accuracy and being transparent. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Reporter Caitlin Dewey Rainwater at the Buffalo News used her one-year anniversary of working at the paper to show the breadth of the journalism she had produced at the paper so far. She did this through publishing a thread on Twitter highlighting seven stories she had written that she was especially proud of. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Toronto Star shares daily corrections published in the print paper on Twitter. By doing this, the newsroom shows they care about accuracy and setting the record straight. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
WTXL decided to stop publishing mugshots in the majority of its crime stories. The station’s general manager Matt Brown wrote in a column explaining that the decision was out of a commitment to “tell stories that go beyond the irrelevant and isolated stories on the crime beat, and instead focus on stories that give you a true sense of your community through context, perspective and impact. We will still cover significant and impactful crimes in your community. We will still publish stories with mugshots of persons wanted or arrested for noteworthy or impactful crimes in your community.” Brown ended the column by stating he hoped the change would be a positive one for the community and offered a place for users to offer their feedback about the decision. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Toronto Star updated how it displayed its opinion content in order to help readers distinguish opinion stories from news. The changes included clearer labels as well as a glossary that defined the different types of analysis and columns their audience would see in their editorial pages. “We are trying to help be a place that can help cut through the confusion and inaccuracies,” Star editor Irene Gentle wrote. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do. 
Themes:
The Toronto Star published its ethics guide online that explained the newsroom’s mission and best practices. The guide read: “The Torstar Journalistic Standards Guide provides a comprehensive code of journalistic principles and conduct to guide us in our mission: to responsibly engage and connect with our readers on all platforms with trusted news, information and content to help make their lives, their communities, our country and our world better.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
NPR included a disclaimer on a breaking news story that reminded their audience it was an ongoing story and that some information may change as the situation unfolded. “This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong,” the note read. “We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
NPR published its ethics handbook and made it searchable so people could easily find information about the organization’s policies and practices. The handbook goes over topics ranging from how NPR decides when to use anonymous sources to how the newsroom strives to represent diverse people and perspectives. The policies are written in clear, straightforward language so it is easy for anyone — especially people outside of journalism — to understand. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
NPR created an internal checklist for its journalists to ensure their reporting is as accurate as possible. The checklist is a list of items reporters and producers should double-check before handing the story off to an editor, such as name spellings, dates, and titles. A training document publically published online also included clear information as to how NPR journalists should alert an editor when a correction needed to be made. “The checklist that follows is a reminder of things we all know we should do,” former Standards & Practices editor Mark Memmott wrote. “We know we will make mistakes. But we all need to do what we can to reduce them.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
NPR changed it’s online design in its opinion section so that it was easier for users to spot what was news content and what was opinion content. The changes included using more straightforward language to describe the different kinds of opinion content and placing the author’s credentials in a more prominent position. “NPR does not have a separate place for opinion pieces (unlike newspapers, say, which segregate such content on the editorial pages), so it’s particularly important that such content is obvious to readers when it appears on the NPR home page or on a mobile app or in a social media feed,” a column explaining the change read. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The editor of the Globe and Mail, Sylvia Stead, wrote a column explaining the paper’s policy for using anonymous sources. The column included a list of recent stories where their journalists used anonymous sources, why they felt it was necessary to include unnamed sources, and also linked to their code of conduct. “These days when some are quick to blame the messenger and cry ‘fake’ when it’s something they don’t like, it is incumbent on the media to use anonymous sources with care and to be as open as possible about that person’s background and expertise,” Stead wrote. “As the code says, the point of anonymous sources is to ‘get the fullest story possible, not to let people dodge accountability or take anonymous potshots.’” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do. 
The Philadelphia Inquirer redesigned its opinion pages in the paper so that it was easier for their audience to read and understand the difference between news and opinion content. The changes included a glossary that explained the difference between editorials, op-eds and columns, as well as updated labels that helped clarify for readers which stories were news, and which ones were opinion. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Herald and Review used a Twitter thread to highlight some of their best journalism, showing their audience the variety and depth of their journalism. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Globe and Mail published a Google Form on its website where readers could share feedback if they thought the paper got something wrong. By doing this, the newsroom showed they were open to reader feedback and striving for fairness and accuracy. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Globe and Mail posted its Editorial Code of Conduct on its website, letting its audience know about their newsroom’s mission and goals. The code of conduct included information on many different aspects of the newsroom’s standards, including its policy for deleting comments and how their journalists fact-checked stories. “The Globe and Mail’s long-standing tradition of journalistic integrity and credibility
 is essential to its reputation as Canada’s most trusted news source,” the code of conduct reads. “This reputation 
is rooted in the conduct of the editorial staff. Unless all employees strive for the highest standards of journalistic integrity, we cannot hope to sustain the trust we have inspired in our readers for generations.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Student reporters at Cronkite News gave their audience a behind-the-scenes look at their reporting process while covering a teacher strike in Arizona through a video series called “Full Circle.” In the video, they showed their reporting process, from how they decided which shots they tried while out in the field to their editorial meeting where they discussed coverage and the paper’s story selection process. “Our goal is to be transparent in our planning and reporting the news of the day. So we are taking you from pitch to prime time and even inside our post newscast meeting,” the video states. “We’ll document the work of our reporters, editors and producers as we prepare stories for our Arizona PBS audience.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
With COVID-19 consuming daily life, it could seem strange to see a non-pandemic related investigation published by a news organization. NPR addressed this situation directly when publishing an investigation into recycling. They adding an editor’s note at the top of the story that read, “NPR will be publishing stories from this investigative series in the weeks ahead, even as we focus our current coverage on the coronavirus pandemic. But here’s a look at some of our key findings. You can watch the full documentary film from this investigation on the PBS series Frontline.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
News station KVRR and the North Dakota Department of Health teamed up to bring a health expert on a Facebook Live to answer user questions about the COVID-19 outbreak. The station then featured parts of the Facebook Live in their newscast. During the newscast, the anchors acknowledged that many people were asking questions on their social media page about the pandemic, and then let users know they were attempting to answer those questions by bringing the expert back to do a Q&A. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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.

 

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.
The editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution Kevin Riley wrote a column explaining how the news organization’s coverage had changed since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. “This situation has inspired some important changes at the AJC. I hope you’ve noticed those in the newspaper and at our website. And we, like so many of you, have had to change the way we work.” They highlighted their mission statement, pointed out how their print paper has changed to include more puzzles, a coloring page and a guide to help readers make the most of their time at home.
A month ago, the 2020 election season was consuming national and local news coverage. And now? While the campaigns are continuing and the election is just a little over six months away, the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States has changed that focus. These days, everyone is just trying to survive. They are depending on their local news organizations to help them navigate the uncertainty they see all around them. People want questions answered about their very livelihood. They are losing their jobs and want to know where to go for help with car and rent payments, unemployment and groceries. And journalists (like you) are stepping up. You’re providing them the information they need, and you’re doing it while your own lives have also been turned upside down. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Themes:
When announcing Tampa Bay Times was cutting back to printing twice a week, publisher Paul Tash wrote a straight-forward column explaining how the coronavirus spread has negatively impacted the paper’s funding and what they were doing to counter a loss in advertising revenue. “In the last two weeks, retailers have canceled more than $1-million in advertising they had already scheduled. Until ad revenues recover, we must sharply reduce the costs of producing and delivering an edition in print,” Tash wrote. “For more than a century, the Times has been an advocate for this community, in good times and bad. Now this region faces steep new challenges, and we feel them keenly at your newspaper.”
CalMatters engaged with their audience during the coronavirus pandemic by asking readers for their questions through a Google form at the bottom of their stories. They asked: “What questions do you have about the state of California’s response to the coronavirus pandemic?” The newsroom also linked to an FAQ where they compiled answers to previous reader questions about the virus, showing readers they valued their questions and feedback enough to follow up.
Both the editor and publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote a column sharing their approach of how the newsroom would be covering the coronavirus pandemic. The columns explained how jobs were changing and adapting to keep employees safe, and reminded the audience of their commitment to fact-based reporting. “A big part of our job during these uncertain times is to provide you with useful and accurate information so that you can reduce your risk and protect others. We hope to arm you with fact-based information so that you can best protect yourselves and those around you.”
WCPO launched a new series called Act of Kindness to highlight positive things happening in Cincinnati during the coronavirus outbreak. “When I am out speaking in the community, I tell people every corner of our community is neither all bad or all good. Our job as journalists is to paint that picture accurately,” news director Mike Canon wrote when speaking to the station’s breadth of coverage. “That remains true when it comes to the impact of COVID-19. There’s a lot of darkness out there. But there are also everyday people doing heroic things to help their neighbors. We have a responsibility to tell you those stories — in addition to the stories about the virus’s impact.” By highlighting the positive stories they cover, it helps the station remind their audience that they do more than just report on negative news.
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 at the Coloradoan Eric Larsen wrote a column directly talking to readers about how the newsroom is responding to coronavirus — and how much they need their community’s support. “Like you, we’re weary from the myriad changes the last two weeks have brought. But our dedication to serve Fort Collins and our surrounding communities is steadfast. We will not waver,” Larsen wrote. “…here’s a quick look at the steps we’re taking to ensure Fort Collins and Northern Colorado stay informed and healthy amid the coronavirus pandemic.”
The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press started a series called The Helper where they highlight people and groups who are stepping up to help others during the coronavirus outbreak. By reporting on positive news that uplifts the community, it shows the organization’s breadth of work, as well as their commitment to their community.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, The Tennessean’s opinion editor David Plazas started a video series to continue bringing interviews and insights from experts to the public. Their goal is to interview some of the people who write guest opinion stories for them on a weekly basis. “As an opinion and engagement editor, I typically am out and about in the community, attending events and meetings, and moderating debates and discussions. Self-quarantining in the age of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak has made that impossible for the time being. That is why on Tuesday we launched the new Tennessee Voices videocast,” the story reads. “Our opinion team continues to publish guest columns daily by thoughtful innovators, creators and leaders in the community to keep readers connected.”
The Daily Telegraph wrote an article explaining that the World Health Organization had deemed it safe to touch newspapers. “Your health and wellbeing are of the utmost importance to us, and if you are wondering if it is safe to get the paper delivered, the answer is yes,” the article stated. “According to the World Health Organization, it has been deemed safe to receive packages such as newspapers, even from areas that have reported cases of COVID-19.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do
At the bottom of a story related to the coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian included an editor’s note about how they are covering the virus outbreak. In the note, they explained their mission and commitment to factual, accurate reporting. “We have upheld our editorial independence in the face of the disintegration of traditional media – with social platforms giving rise to misinformation, the seemingly unstoppable rise of big tech and independent voices being squashed by commercial ownership,” the note read. “Our journalism is free from commercial and political bias – never influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This makes us different. It means we can challenge the powerful without fear and give a voice to those less heard.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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.
WPCO anchor Evan Millward produced an on-air story explaining how the station was adapting to producing news remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic. He went into detail describing how the different positions in the newsroom were modifying their jobs and let viewers know why some of their daily news segments might look different now that everyone was working from home. “It doesn’t matter if we’re working from our newsroom – or from our kitchen counter,” Millward wrote. “We live in and love Greater Cincinnati, too. We’ve been working for you for years – and no pandemic will stop that commitment.”
Food editor Ligaya Figueras at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote an article explaining how their food coverage would be changing amid the coronavirus outbreak. Figueras writes: “In this time of uncertainty, one thing is certain: We all still need to eat … The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s food and dining team is committed to keeping you as informed as possible so that you can feed your families safely, and enjoy your time together at the stove and table.” The column goes onto explain how the paper would be dropping restaurant reviews, shifting coverage to restaurants that are remaining open and highlighting recipes readers could cook from home.
In a story highlighting “fake news” about animals amid the coronavirus outbreak, National Geographic included an editor’s note that alerted readers to online tools they could use to help verify if photos are real or have been altered. “If a post seems too good to be true, check social media to see if anyone else has already debunked it,” the note read. By telling readers how to spot altered photos, they are establishing that they don’t support “fake” news and are actively trying to quell misinformation. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
We all know how much information is out there right now because a lot of you are working around the clock to produce it. COVID-19 is a breaking news story that has continued and will continue for weeks and months. But just as you are working to produce credible stories that can help save lives, there are other people sharing links that are totally false or contain misinformation. You may think, what does the misinformation have to do with me and my journalism? What should you do about it? Well, you could ignore it (though at Trusting News we don’t recommend that and explain why here). But what if the misinformation is being shared in a Facebook group you manage, underneath a link you posted on social media or on comments on your news story? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
During hectic breaking news coverage, social media is often a go-to place for the latest information, live streams, questions, answers and, unfortunately, misinformation. At Trusting News, we always encourage newsrooms to engage with their users, but now it may be more important than ever. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
The Bangor Daily News in Maine used an editors note in a newsletter to share their reporting goals and mission during the coronavirus pandemic. The newsroom reminded the public that they didn’t want to cause panic, but instead, wanted to “gather facts, dispel myths and address your information needs,” the note read. “We will clearly detail what is known and not known about the virus, the illness it causes, and risks to Mainers. We seek answers to the questions that only a local news source can ask.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Columbus Dispatch shared their mission and dedication to accurate, fair reporting by adding an editor’s note at the top of their coverage related to the COVID-19 outbreak. “With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to give you the information you need. We want to keep things in context in order to help you make decisions,” the note read. “You can find all of our stories here. These are being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing…” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
WPCO in Cincinnati included an editor’s note at the top of their Coronavirus coverage that shared their mission and goals for reporting on this pandemic with their audience. “With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need,” the note read. “We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.”
In a community Facebook group run by the Coloradoan, the newsroom told users they would not be allowing posts that included speculation or misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. “We will be removing posts that are purely speculation regarding coronavirus,” the post read. “These unconfirmed bits of information can add to public panic and hysteria. We want folks to have confirmed, reliable information. If you have a news tip or are hearing something you’d like to share, send us a private message.” By moderating comments for misinformation, it shows your audience you’re committed to accuracy and getting the facts straight.
The Day in Connecticut made a video explaining why they were offering all their coronavirus coverage for free while reminding the audience of the need for their support. “While we’re providing free access to these articles, they are not free to produce,” the video stated. “The newsroom is working long hours to provide the news and information you need during this health emergency.” The video went on to include directions on how to subscribe to the paper, as well as explained some of the benefits of subscribing, like being able to access the daily E-Newspaper.
Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle Audrey Cooper wrote a column telling their audience that while their journalists and entire news operation were working remotely, they were still just as committed to providing accurate, timely news to the community. “It’s critical that we be there to make sure that you have the information you need to make decisions about what’s right for your family and for your community, ” Cooper wrote. “Whether we are recording podcasts from under a sound-dulling blanket fort (yes, I did that), conducting interviews in a child’s closet among stuffed animals (as reporter Matthias Gafni did), or updating the live updates story while batting away a persistent cat (thanks, Lauren Hernández), we will do everything we can to ensure we provide you with the news now and well after the crisis is over.”
The Coloradoan sent a newsletter to subscribers sharing their plan for how they were going to keep the community informed during the coronavirus pandemic. “This pandemic is a public health crisis the likes of which many of our journalists have never covered before,” content strategies Jennifer Hefty wrote. “We are learning as we go and trying our best to provide critical information without spreading panic.”
Jareen Imam, the Director of Social Newsgathering at NBC, shared a screenshot of their team meeting remotely during the coronavirus outbreak and prompted users to submit their questions. “How are you being affected by COVID-19? Whether you’re a healthcare worker on the frontlines, a parent working from home, a recovering patient or a furloughed worker, @NBCNews Social Newsgathering team is working 24/7 to hear your stories and tips,” the Tweet read. Not only does this build transparency, but it also reminds users that their journalists are real people who are part of their local communities, weathering this storm along with them.
The San Fransisco Chronicle reminded their readers of their commitment to serving their community by adding a bot, called the assignment editor, to their home page and some stories. The bot allows users to ask questions related to the Coronavirus pandemic. “Life in the Bay Area has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic,” the prompt reads. “Tell us the questions you want answered, and the issues you think we should be investigating.” The team can then use the responses to write stories or use the information to make coverage decisions.
WCPO in Cinncinati shared part of their reporting process with their audience by adding a line in their on-air coverage about how they were using video shot by the restaurant because they could not go inside due to COVID-19. “We can’t bring you this story the traditional way we would,” the anchor said. “La Soupe has asked us to stay out of their kitchen for obvious reasons, but they did offer to shoot video of food prep themselves, and that’s what you’ll be seeing in this story.” The explanation flowed well with the story and did not disrupt the storytelling.
The Christian Science Monitor reminded their audience of their mission during the coronavirus outbreak by asking for feedback in a simple Tweet that read: “The Christian Science Monitor is committed to covering the coronavirus pandemic. How are we doing? What coverage do you need right now? Let us know.”
WCPO in Cinncinati wrote a column explaining how they were adjusting their programming so their journalists could practice safe social distancing. The column made clear how it would affect the work of their employees and the programming the audience would see. “Some of these changes might impact the quality of our newscasts or online news sources. They might not look as polished as they normally do, and we would always rather interview people in person,” the column read. “But we are willing to make these sacrifices because we feel strongly that we need to do our part to prevent the spread of the virus and to keep our employees healthy.”
WMAR-2 News in Baltimore wrote a story explaining how their programming would change to keep their newsroom and journalists safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. The station ended the column by asking for questions and news tips from the audience, saying: “We can’t do this without you. Please tell us what is going on in your community.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
WEWS in Cleveland posted a column sharing why the station was focusing so much of its coverage on the coronavirus spread and addressed accusations from readers that they were stoking panic and fear in the community. “Balancing our coronavirus coverage in a way that attempts to reflect reality is something we’ve been discussing over here a lot. We’re quite aware that there’s a way to report this story that makes it sound like the world is coming to an end,” Digital Director Joe Donatelli wrote. “Our focus right now is on reporting the overall impact, government management and the human element of this public health threat in a manner that raises public awareness.” The post also discussed how social media algorithms can impact the type of news content you see in your social feeds. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.

 

When faced with reporting negative news about a financial supporter, NPR took the opportunity to acknowledge the relationship by working a financial disclosure into the story. “We will tell you now that Amazon is a financial supporter of NPR News, and we are raising these questions about Amazon all the same, which is how it should work,” host Steve Inskeep said. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
When NPR reporter David Folkenflik reported about job cuts and restructuring at the news organization, he included an editor’s note at the bottom that explained the newsroom’s process and how the company’s ownership did not have a say in influencing editorial content. The explained said: “This story was reported by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik and edited by deputy business editor Jennifer Liberto and chief business editor Pallavi Gogoi under the protocol for coverage of the network. No NPR News executives or corporate officials were able to review this report before it was posted publicly.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Seattle Times published a story letting their audience know they were revamping their comments policy. In the post, they explained part of the changes were spurred by reader feedback and stated their goal was to “ensure a respectful commenting environment for everyone,” the post said. Not only did they let readers into their process and include an FAQ about the changes, but the newsroom staff also invited readers to weigh in, ask questions and give feedback. 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 Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times wrote an article explaining who they are, why they do what they do, and what the newsroom’s decision-making process is. The article included information like the newsroom’s mission, how the newsroom decides what to cover, how they use content from wire services, its process for handling corrections, as well as how the public can submit news tips. By putting all the information into one place they’ll be able to easily share the link when questions come up in the future.
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.”

 

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.
Do you know what questions your audience has about your news organization? We bet if you looked at your comments, listened to user voicemails, or read through emails, you’d see a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about how you do what you do. Even if your audience is made up of super savvy news consumers, chances are they don’t always understand why you talked to one source and not another, why you follow up on some stories but not others, and even more basic … if you care about things like fairness and accuracy. We as journalists often forget that our processes are invisible to our audience unless we make them public. We say this often at Trusting News, but in the absence of explanations, our audiences typically make negative assumptions about our motives and processes. We saw this after a Trusting News partner organization recently conducted an audience survey. While the survey responses (from thousands of readers) revealed public misunderstandings and frustrations with the paper, they also shed light on how readers were genuinely curious about how the newsroom functions. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Have you ever tried to get in touch with a journalist you did not know personally? We do it all the time. Unfortunately, many news organization websites are so hard to navigate or out of date that searching for the journalist on Twitter or Facebook is much easier. Your audience members won’t be as persistent as we are. Rather than continuing to dig, calling the newsroom or emailing a general email address, they will give up and move on. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
You most likely already have newsroom policies. You probably reviewed them during one of your first days on the job. Maybe you still refer to them while writing or editing a story or responding to a user complaint. Newsroom policies often cover things like: Corrections and accuracy Financial independence Political independence Commitment to diversity Unnamed sources Photo and video editing and ethics Conflicts of interest It’s important to have your policies clear internally. But, what if you also talked publicly about your ethics? What if you also explained when stories are corrected, how a user can tell if a story has been corrected, and how they can submit their own corrections? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Telling your users how long you have been reporting on what’s happening in your community can be powerful. It can also help lend credibility to your organization. When talking about your history, be sure to focus on the impact you have had in the community instead of big-name hires or printing press changes. Consider writing about the big stories you’ve seen the community through. Include old pictures of the newsroom, your building, your front pages or your newscasts. Think about including information like coverage area expansions or changes, the addition of new beats or the development of a podcast, video show, etc. Be sure to include any ownership changes, community event sponsorships and awards too. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
What is your news organization’s mission? What communities do you cover, and how long have you been in business? What do you value, and what are your standards? Who works in your newsroom, and how are they reachable? How do you make money? These are all basic questions people might have about your news organization, but could they easily find the answers on your website, in your paper or on your social media profiles? At Trusting News we find that a lot of newsrooms have information answering these questions somewhere, but it’s not always easy to find and it’s almost always written using journalism jargon. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
It can feel like a luxury to pause and read a study about the news business. Who has the time? Yet researchers can tell us quite a bit about how news consumers behave, what makes them pay for news, what they want from news and what makes them trust and distrust journalism. For example: Nearly half of Americans — 44 percent — believe the press invents negative stories about the president, including 74 percent of Republicans. (Poynter Media Trust Survey 2017) Fewer than half of Americans (44%) say they can think of a news source that reports the news objectively. (Knight Foundation/Gallup, 2018) The majority of Americans think local news organizations are doing very well or somewhat well financially. But if the financial state is explained to them, they say they are more likely to support their local news organizations. (Knight Foundation/Gallup, 2019) Only 24% or Americans say they believe the news media in general is “moral.” But that number more than doubles (53%) when people are asked about the media they use most often. (API/AP-NORC, 2017) More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Ask any opinion journalist this question: Do you get complaints from your audience that your work is biased? In our experience, the answer is almost certainly going to be yes. Accusations of bias are so ubiquitous that it’s no longer widely understood that some journalism is actually designed to persuade. See this comment, from a user survey one of our newsroom partners conducted: “Change the restaurant reviewer; she’s very biased.” You mean you noticed that the person hired to tell you what she thinks of restaurants is sharing her opinion? It’s easy to be frustrated by that misunderstanding, and it’s tempting to roll our eyes and move on with our day. But think about the fact that a significant subset of readers think opinions are accidentally creeping into your news coverage, rather than understanding that you’re paying journalists to share their opinion. The report highlights the experiences and advice of editors like Joel Christopher. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Last week, we talked about how it is important to respond to claims of “fake news.” This week, we’re taking a broader look at how journalists can respond to attacks on their credibility. That’s the topic of a recent report from the American Press Institute. (Disclosure: Trusting News is a project of API and the Reynolds Journalism Institute). The API report highlights how attacks on the media are felt in newsrooms, both at the national and local level. Most of you know all of this firsthand and likely can picture conversations in which you could have used more strategic responses. The report highlights the experiences and advice of editors like Joel Christopher. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
When a reporter at the Burlington Free Press used an unnamed source in a story, an editor at the paper, April McCullum, wrote a column explaining the paper’s policy and why they OK’d the use of the unnamed source. McCullum listed the factors that went into the decision-making process and linked to the paper’s ethics policy. “This is not something we do lightly, ” she wrote. “After much discussion inside the newsroom, we decided that the value to the reader of this family’s perspective warranted agreeing to their request.”
Posting your organization’s guiding principles in a prominent place is a good way to share your mission with your audience. Entercom did this by publicly posting the organization’s core principles on their website’s “About Us” page. “We are a mission-driven company. We care. A lot. We care about our communities, our listeners, our customers, our brands, our partners, our company, our work, and our teammates,” they wrote. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Michigan Radio created a contact page on its website where they listed each of their reporter’s job titles and credentials. Not only does this help introduce individual reporters to readers, it also helps boost reporter credibility.
When a reader wrote a thoughtful comment on a Christian Science Monitor Facebook post, the reporter of the article directly responded to the reader’s question, thanked them for reaching out and then provided additional context and information. Publicly responding to comments can remind readers of your commitment to your local community and by responding publicly you are not just answering that one person, you are also answering anyone else who sees the response.
To be more transparent about where opinion content comes from and who’s writing it, the editorial board at the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times put an editor’s note at the top of an opinion piece noting that the state representative was invited to write the piece, and explained why. “We invited Rep. Jeff Leach, author of Proposition 4, to write this column in response to a column by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. The CPPP, which also wrote at our invitation, opposes the proposition, as do we,” the board wrote.
It’s a new year; hello 2020. For a lot of us, a new year brings promises of setting goals both personally and professionally. As you do this, I have one for you to consider: Talk honestly to your audience about the idea of “fake news.” While we would all probably just wish the phrase would go away in this new year, a look through comments on social media shows complaints about bias and media manipulation aren’t going anywhere. So, instead of side-stepping them or ignoring them, let’s address them directly. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
It’s common these days for journalists to write a “behind the story” piece to accompany long projects. In these stories, an editor typically explains why a story was done, demonstrates how much work it took to produce, credits the staff and answers some anticipated reader questions. Those pieces are usually on a separate page from the main story and often only the most dedicated readers will click through. At Trusting News, we’re firm believers in taking advantage of attention where we already have it: in the story itself. In the spot in the story where you say a source wasn’t available for comment, you could explain how you tried to reach the person. When you introduce an expert source, you could include information about their independence and reliability. When part of a story led you to consult a conflict of interest policy, describe the situation and link to the policy. 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.
During breaking news about a school shooting, staff at KPCC/LAist showed the breadth of their coverage by including a “How we’re reporting on this box” at the end of the story, explaining which journalists reported each aspect of the story. This also helps build credibility with your audience by introducing individual reporters. This newsroom is a Trusting News partner but this work was done independently from Trusting News.
After internal conversations about being more responsive to readers on its website, The Day’s editorial page editor Paul Choiniere jumped into a comment thread to explain the paper’s coverage of a military event. He publicly responded to negative feedback shared in a letter to the editor, saying: “The Day will match its reporting on the military and on veterans with any newspaper in the country. It is extensive. But we cannot cover every event. … However, we respect the rights of our readers to offer their opinions, including, as in this case, in letters to the editor.” This newsroom is a Trusting News partner but this work was done independently from Trusting News.

 

Does your community know your organization is invested in its future and well-being? The Tennessean showed their newsroom’s commitment to its community by hosting an event where local residents gathered to think about inequities facing Nashville’s public schools and brainstorm possible solutions. After the event, opinion editor David Plazas wrote a story highlighting key findings from the event and thanked readers for their time and participation. “On behalf of The Tennessean, I am so grateful for the community’s interest and participation,” Plazas wrote.
Instead of leaving it up to the audience to make assumptions, the Michigan Daily used an editor’s note to explain why a story included anonymous sources. It defined what an anonymous source is, why the sources didn’t want to be identified and then linked to the newsroom’s ethics policy. “In accordance with our ethics policy (which can be found in full in our bylaws), the reporter of this article and two editors have seen the names and fraternity affiliations of our sources, as well as the evidence they provided The Daily,” the editor’s note read.
Science News created an FAQ page sharing how they report on science stories, explaining everything from their sourcing process to how they fact-check stories. “Our standards and processes are essential to what we do, and we believe they should be as transparent and accessible as the stories we publish,” the FAQ states. The top of the page also invites readers into the conversation by sharing how they can reach out with questions or suggestions.