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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.

 

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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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. 
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.”
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
The Lenoir News-Topic implemented an internal social media policy so their reporters and editors would know how to interact with commenters. Commenting guides like these can help anyone in the newsroom feel equipped to jump in and respond to comments when necessary.
Asking for feedback can be a great way to let your audience know you’re working to provide them with the best information. During Hurricane Dorian, reporter Eve Samples with the USA TODAY Network sent out a weather newsletter to readers in nine markets in the southeast region. She included a survey in each newsletter and ended up receiving hundreds of positive responses from readers. Some of the feedback included: “What I am seeing here is very helpful” and “I feel a part of this community and your newspaper keeps me well informed. Thank you.” At the top of the next weather article, she reiterated the journalist’s commitment to the community and followed up by thanking readers for their feedback and comments. USA TODAY is a Trusting News partner but this work was done independently from Trusting News.
When covering a story about a local student who died by suicide, The State included a “Behind Our Reporting” box that shared their approach and guidelines to reporting on suicides. The box read, “Discussion of suicide can be difficult, especially for people who may already be thinking of harming themselves. As a general practice, The State does not report on suicides unless they involve prominent individuals or occur in public places. In the case of this story, we felt the incident warranted fact-based reporting accessible to members of our community.”
When reporting on elections, sharing how you’re striving to provide fair and balanced coverage can be a powerful way to earn trust with your audience. Before President Trump made a campaign stop in Cincinnati, WPCO wrote an article explaining the station’s policy on covering candidates ahead of the 2020 election. The station was transparent about it’s guidelines and acknowledged how coverage would be different from past election cycles. “We know this is a controversial decision for some of our audience, but we wanted to let you know that we took great care in trying to make a fair decision for our community,” Senior Director Mike Canan wrote.

 

The State highlighted reader’s responses by posting a roundup of people’s comments and reactions to popular news stories that week. When the comment was a question about the facts of the news story or how the journalists put the story together, they answered them. Here is one of the responses provided: “Why did we write this story? The public scrutinizes so many aspects of candidates’ work and lives, and journalists make continual judgment calls about what information is interesting and relevant, and therefore worthy of coverage. Reader feedback about those judgment calls is always welcome.”
While speaking at an Athletes of the Year banquet, Timothy Dwyer, the publisher at The Day, discussed what the paper offers the community, explained it’s funding model, and invited people to support it financially. “Like any other local business, we need your support,” he said. Appearing at in-person events can help the community see the employees of a news organization (the journalists) as real people, which can help build trust.
We hear from a lot of journalists that they’d like to invite people into their newsrooms. My first reaction is always: yes, please do. But, like other in-person events, doing so takes thought and planning if you want it to be successful. If you just issue a general call-out for visitors, you never know who may show up. You won’t know their concerns or who they are (which also raises safety and security issues). And they most likely all have different complaints or questions, making it hard to have a constructive discussion once you’re all together. But inviting people in can be a really effective way to engage with your audience. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
It’s easy for journalists to feel like our audience is mostly made up of people who hate us. After all, those folks are often the noisiest. Sometimes people defend us as well, but praise is usually not as loud as criticism. It’s easy to be left with the impression that our audience is mostly haters, with a few fans mixed in. When we consider the feedback (and most notably, the comments) we receive, it’s no wonder that we tend to put people in buckets of extreme viewpoints. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Finding phone numbers and email addresses for journalists can be really frustrating. It’s almost as if we don’t want to be found. I had an experience last week that I hate to imagine your audience having. I wanted to email a journalist, so I went to his news organization’s website to find contact information. The Contact Us page had only a general form, with options to have your message go to different departments (circulation, obituaries, etc.). No names. No direct info. So I played detective and guessed what it might be (first initial, last name, url, perhaps?), then googled that potential email address. Voila! Your community members probably don’t know how to do that, and they shouldn’t have to. In this scenario, they would most likely just give up, and they would leave with the sense that you don’t actually want to hear from them. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
If a member of your community looks you up on social media, what will they learn about what you stand for and value?
Something we are learning at Trusting News is that users make a lot of assumptions about who we are, what we do and why we do things. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Are you inviting feedback from your users? We’ve talked about directly asking your audience what they think about your news coverage through a survey or a post on social media (more on that here). But instead of just asking for feedback sporadically, try working the ask into daily stories. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
I wrote a few weeks ago about the importance of earning trust face to face — how looking into another person’s eyes is more likely to create an authentic connection than an online or phone interaction. I also pointed you to new Pew data, which shows that only 21 percent of Americans have ever spoken with a journalist. (And those interactions are more likely to have happened with younger, less affluent, less educated, non-white people.) More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Themes:
Story topic:

Newsroom:
It’s not uncommon for users to question why a newsroom is covering specific teams and to assume the staff is showing preference. Responding to those questions publicly can help demystify the story selection process for the commenter and for anyone else who is reading. The Day offered an explanation in a comment here that discussed the need to plan ahead and the newsworthiness of a specific team.
Themes:
Newsroom:
Taking the time to respond authentically to comments, especially when people take time to offer real suggestions, can build trust. In this example, a commenter suggested that improvements were needed in how the station chose sources for stories about firearms. When the editor offered his email address and asked for suggestions, a thoughtful and fruitful email exchange resulted.
Facebook comments can be an effective way to say directly to your community that you value their trust, then invite and answer questions. WCPO editors did just that. In the comments that followed, some commenters complained in general about bias in the media and fake news. An editor replied by inviting specific examples from their coverage. Not only that, he included his own email address. That shows that the station is open to feedback, but it also keeps the conversation focused on their own coverage, not the media overall.
Themes:
The comment sections connected to news stories — on their own platforms and on social media — often remind me of a poorly thrown party. Imagine you decide to have people over. You stock the bar, put on some music and throw open the door. And then you … leave. You hope (assume?) people will be on their best behavior, and you expect to come home to a house that’s still in order. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Trust Tips 1: Ask how you could better earn trust
When was the last time you told your community that you value their trust? How often do you ask them how you could do better? In text? On air? On social media? In a newsletter? Acknowledging that you know some of them don’t trust you is powerful, as is asking for feedback. News consumers aren’t usually shy about telling us how we could do better, but asking for input directly (rather than just waiting to see what comments people leave on stories) can help get a constructive conversation going. This is from our “Trust Tips” weekly newsletter. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
If one of your journalists writes a book about a story they have been working on or produces a documentary, highlight it. Two of WCPO's journalists were involved in publishing a book about "Fiona the Hippo," a local zoo animal that has gone viral. The news organization held a book signing and invited their users. More than 100 people attended the event.
If one of your journalists writes a book about a story they have been working on or produces a documentary, highlight it. Two of WCPO’s journalists were involved in publishing a book about “Fiona the Hippo,” a local zoo animal that has gone viral. The news organization held a book signing and invited their users. More than 100 people attended the event.
To better respond to users submitting feedback WCNC assigned specific roles to its journalists. Web producers were assigned to respond to Facebook messages and news managers respond to viewer emails. This has allowed the newsroom to address specific questions and concerns and has led to "exclusive" content & stories for WCNC.
To better respond to users submitting feedback WCNC assigned specific roles to its journalists. Web producers were assigned to respond to Facebook messages and news managers respond to viewer emails. This has allowed the newsroom to address specific questions and concerns and has led to “exclusive” content & stories for WCNC.
Virginian-Pilot
When encouraging engagement and response to comments on your website or on social media platforms, it’s important to make sure your newsroom is equipped to jump in and help. The Virginian-Pilot created a guide for their reporters and editors to help them better respond to user comments and increase engagement.
Being responsive isn't always easy, especially when the comments are negative or critical of your reporting. CALmatters used their newsroom account and one of their reporter's personal Twitter accounts to respond to criticism about the sources they use in their stories. They never received a response when offering to have the conversation, but felt it sent the message that their newsroom wants feedback from everyone, even people who are critical of their reporting.
Being responsive isn’t always easy, especially when the comments are negative or critical of your reporting. CALmatters used their newsroom account and one of their reporter’s personal Twitter accounts to respond to criticism about the sources they use in their stories. They never received a response when offering to have the conversation, but felt it sent the message that their newsroom wants feedback from everyone, even people who are critical of their reporting.
Annenberg Media updated their "about" section on their YouTube channel
Annenberg Media updated their “about” section on their YouTube channel to explain a new series they were launching called “Full Disclosure.” They told users, “We want you to trust us. We’re pulling back the curtain on the decisions that go into reporting and publishing stories at Annenberg Media…” The description provides clarity for the user while the newsroom capitalizes on a simple branding opportunity offered by the social platform.
Annenberg Media updated their "about" section on their YouTube channel
Annenberg Media updated their “about” section on their YouTube channel to explain a new series they were launching called “Full Disclosure.” They told users, “We want you to trust us. We’re pulling back the curtain on the decisions that go into reporting and publishing stories at Annenberg Media…” The description provides clarity for the user while the newsroom capitalizes on a simple branding opportunity offered by the social platform.
More than 60 students, teachers and chaperones visited the newsroom of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
More than 60 students, teachers, and chaperones visited the newsroom of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It was the first time the newsroom had opened its doors to the public since 2014. During the two and a half hour visit, students helped choose the story for the top of the home page, met photographers, reporters, and editors, and had an opportunity to try their hand at weather and traffic in front of the green screen. The feedback from the visit was overwhelmingly positive and the newsroom shared photos and videos from the event on their Facebook page.
WUSA took time to highlight their coverage of stop and frisk laws in Washington, D.C. in their on-air broadcast. In highlighting their work, they also asked people to contact them if they have been stopped and frisked and then reminded their users: "our reporting is only as strong as the community we're honored to serve."
WUSA took time to highlight their coverage of stop and frisk laws in Washington, D.C. in their on-air broadcast. In highlighting their work, they also asked people to contact them if they have been stopped and frisked and then reminded their users: “our reporting is only as strong as the community we’re honored to serve.”
When you bring news to people using many platforms, a best practice is to also share how users can contact you on all of those platforms. In a simple but effective move, WUSA created a full-screen TV graphic that tells users how they can contact the news organization. The graphic airs after every story in their "Verify" franchise. This has resulted in the newsroom receiving an additional 10-15 story ideas each day.
When you bring news to people using many platforms, a best practice is to also share how users can contact you on all of those platforms. In a simple but effective move, WUSA created a full-screen TV graphic that tells users how they can contact the news organization. The graphic airs after every story in their “Verify” franchise. This has resulted in the newsroom receiving an additional 10-15 story ideas each day.
Many news organizations host booths at festivals, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff went a step further.
Many news organizations host booths at festivals, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff went a step further. On top of showing up at a popular community event and interacting with the public, they decided to also help register people to vote. By being present in the community they allowed people to see them as real people and get to know them better. When people meet journalists and get to know them it can help build trust for the individual journalist, but also the news organization and the journalism industry as a whole.
Many news organizations host booths at festivals, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff went a step further.
Many news organizations host booths at festivals, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff went a step further. On top of showing up at a popular community event and interacting with the public, they decided to also help register people to vote. By being present in the community they allowed people to see them as real people and get to know them better. When people meet journalists and get to know them it can help build trust for the individual journalist, but also the news organization and the journalism industry as a whole.
Video: How to Submit a Letter to the Editor
The Tennessean produced a 41-second video  for users explaining how to submit a “letter to the editor.” They included information about where to send the letter and how many words it should be (250 or less). The video is concise and to the point. More importantly, it can be embedded on the website or easily shared on social and by including text on the screen, it is easily consumable.
Video: How to Submit a Letter to the Editor
The Tennessean produced a 41-second video  for users explaining how to submit a “letter to the editor.” They included information about where to send the letter and how many words it should be (250 or less). The video is concise and to the point. More importantly, it can be embedded on the website or easily shared on social and by including text on the screen, it is easily consumable.
Enid used Facebook to remind their users of what type of content they will delete and what type they allow in comment sections. Having a comment policy for your website and social platforms allows you to more easily moderate conversations with users. But, while you may have established these policies and have them visibly displayed, a reminder is always helpful.
Enid used Facebook to remind their users of what type of content they will delete and what type they allow in comment sections. Having a comment policy for your website and social platforms allows you to more easily moderate conversations with users. But, while you may have established these policies and have them visibly displayed, a reminder is always helpful.
The Gazette designed a button for their web stories that asked users if the information about how they reported a story was "helpful" or "not helpful." Users weighed in on that questions by simply clicking on the words. This was added to pull-out boxes and at the end of written stories.
The Gazette designed a button for their web stories that asked users if the information about how they reported a story was “helpful” or “not helpful.” Users weighed in on that questions by simply clicking on the words. This was added to pull-out boxes and at the end of written stories.
In an effort to be more transparent with its users, the Jefferson City News Tribune, wrote a column about how the editorial page works. In the column they discuss their mission as a news organization, explain that the editorial page is made up of people's opinions not news and then talk about how the page works. They explain that they are an independent paper that tends to lean conservative but they still look to include other views different than their own. They also embedded their user feedback form at the bottom of the article.
In an effort to be more transparent with its users, the Jefferson City News Tribune, wrote a column about how the editorial page works. In the column they discuss their mission as a news organization, explain that the editorial page is made up of people’s opinions not news and then talk about how the page works. They explain that they are an independent paper that tends to lean conservative but they still look to include other views different than their own. They also embedded their user feedback form at the bottom of the article.
In an effort to let users know they are listening to them and looking to include all perspectives when reporting a story, WITF added the following to the top of their web stories: ""Here are the most prominent perspectives on this story. We are on the lookout for stereotypes and assumptions in our own work, and we invite you to point out we may have missed. Contact us on our Trusting News page."
In an effort to let users know they are listening to them and looking to include all perspectives when reporting a story, WITF added the following to the top of their web stories: “Here are the most prominent perspectives on this story. We are on the lookout for stereotypes and assumptions in our own work, and we invite you to point out we may have missed. Contact us on our Trusting News page.”
To highlight their push for including multiple perspectives in stories, WITF added the following to the top of some web stories: "WITF strives to provide nuanced perspectives from the most authoritative sources. We are on the lookout for biases or assumptions in our own work, and we invite you to point out any we may have missed. Contact us on our Trusting News page."
To highlight their push for including multiple perspectives in stories, WITF added the following to the top of some web stories: “WITF strives to provide nuanced perspectives from the most authoritative sources. We are on the lookout for biases or assumptions in our own work, and we invite you to point out any we may have missed. Contact us on our Trusting News page.”
After a survey about low trust in media was published, the Christian Science Monitor asked their Facebook followers if they trusted the news organization. Editors said the comments received were "very constructive." They said they received much more praise than criticism and the criticism received was constructive. The news organization made sure to monitor and respond to comments and said they were surprised how enthusiastic people were about providing feedback.
After a survey about low trust in media was published, the Christian Science Monitor asked their Facebook followers if they trusted the news organization. Editors said the comments received were “very constructive.” They said they received much more praise than criticism and the criticism received was constructive. The news organization made sure to monitor and respond to comments and said they were surprised how enthusiastic people were about providing feedback.
The Coloradoan created a Facebook group for their community so people can get answers about what is happening in their local neighborhoods. They partnered with their local fire agency who also chimes in and provides answers to some of the questions. The news organization created user guidelines and is very clear about what people should expect from the group. So far, they said, feedback has been very positive and they have been able to get local utility companies and the police department involved in discussions as well.
The Coloradoan posted an article on their website explaining why they waited to report on sexual misconduct allegations against a local comedian.
The Coloradoan posted an article on their website explaining why they waited to report on sexual misconduct allegations against a local comedian. To explain why their reporting came later, while other news organizations published it sooner, the article discussed their reporting process to verify the information and the ethical considerations they had to make along the way. When they shared the article on Facebook there was one critical commenter who apologized for earlier comments made after reading the reporting explanation.
The Coloradoan posted an article on their website explaining why they waited to report on sexual misconduct allegations against a local comedian.
The Coloradoan posted an article on their website explaining why they waited to report on sexual misconduct allegations against a local comedian. To explain why their reporting came later, while other news organizations published it sooner, the article discussed their reporting process to verify the information and the ethical considerations they had to make along the way. When they shared the article on Facebook there was one critical commenter who apologized for earlier comments made after reading the reporting explanation.
When sharing a story about someone who died by suicide on Facebook, the Coloradoan used the post as a way to explain their approach to covering suicides. The Facebook post read: "It's the Coloradoan's policy not to report on individual suicides unless the act is in a public place or involves a high-profile person, such as in this case. We felt it was important to report on this story to complete our coverage of the case and provide resources for those struggling with mental illness." The news team did a good job responding to commenters in an appropriate tone and used national guidelines from the CDC to help explain their position.
When sharing a story about someone who died by suicide on Facebook, the Coloradoan used the post as a way to explain their approach to covering suicides. The Facebook post read: “It’s the Coloradoan’s policy not to report on individual suicides unless the act is in a public place or involves a high-profile person, such as in this case. We felt it was important to report on this story to complete our coverage of the case and provide resources for those struggling with mental illness.” The news team did a good job responding to commenters in an appropriate tone and used national guidelines from the CDC to help explain their position.
Enid News and Eagle received critical comments after sharing a story on Facebook. The commenter was critical of their overall news coverage, specifically mistakes found in the paper. The news organizations responded to the commenter, explaining where corrections can be found and how the paper strives for accuracy. When responding, Enid also discussed the important role it serves in the community.
Enid News and Eagle received critical comments after sharing a story on Facebook. The commenter was critical of their overall news coverage, specifically mistakes found in the paper. The news organizations responded to the commenter, explaining where corrections can be found and how the paper strives for accuracy. When responding, Enid also discussed the important role it serves in the community.
The Gazette used a historic photo of their newsroom to highlight their connection to the community. The news organization did something similar before, but saw a more positive response when using a photo from the past. The post also asked users for feedback by including a link to a Google Form.
The Gazette used a historic photo of their newsroom to highlight their connection to the community. The news organization did something similar before but saw a more positive response when using a photo from the past. The post also asked users for feedback by including a link to a Google Form.
The Day used social media and their reporting to connect members of their community. After two women took an ad out in their newspaper looking for a relative, the Day wrote a story about it. After the story published, they found the relative and the Day wrote a follow-up story. When sharing the story link on Facebook the news organization highlighted how their reporting helped reunite the family.
The Day used social media and their reporting to connect members of their community. After two women took an ad out in their newspaper looking for a relative, the Day wrote a story about it. After the story published, they found the relative and the Day wrote a follow-up story. When sharing the story link on Facebook the news organization highlighted how their reporting helped reunite the family.
The Day used Facebook to answer questions from users about how their news process works. They used the opportunity to explain story selection, coverage priorities and their journalism ethics. The Q&A, conducted through the comments section of the post on Facebook, reached more than 5,000 people and almost all of the feedback was positive, even when the answer was not exactly what the user wanted to hear.
The Day used Facebook to answer questions from users about how their news process works. They used the opportunity to explain story selection, coverage priorities and their journalism ethics. The Q&A, conducted through the comments section of the post on Facebook, reached more than 5,000 people and almost all of the feedback was positive, even when the answer was not exactly what the user wanted to hear.
WCPO wrote a web article explaining the important role trust plays in their relationship with their community. The article discussed their participation in the Trusting News project and highlighted how they are going to try to be more trustworthy. The web article also invited feedback from users.
WCPO wrote a web article explaining the important role trust plays in their relationship with their community. The article discussed their participation in the Trusting News project and highlighted how they are going to try to be more trustworthy. The web article also invited feedback from users.
WITF discussed their participation in the Trusting News project in a post on their website. They also shared the post on Facebook and asked for feedback. Overall, WITF journalists said comments were positive.
WITF discussed their participation in the Trusting News project in a post on their website. They also shared the post on Facebook and asked for feedback. Overall, WITF journalists said comments were positive.
When faced with the question of whether or not to cover another school threat in the D.C.-area, WUSA decided to pose the question to their audience. "Should the media report on all threats targeted at schools? Tweet us your thoughts using #OffScriptOn9," they posted in Twitter. In the Twitter thread they discussed that they did not have a set policy about whether or not cover school threats and that the newsroom is often debating this issue internally.
When faced with the question of whether or not to cover another school threat in the D.C.-area, WUSA decided to pose the question to their audience. “Should the media report on all threats targeted at schools? Tweet us your thoughts using #OffScriptOn9,” they posted on Twitter. In the Twitter thread, they discussed that they did not have a set policy about whether or not cover school threats and that the newsroom is often debating this issue internally.
The State wanted to make sure all members of one of their Facebook groups understood their community guidelines. They also wanted to revist the rules to clearly state what is allowed and what is not. Once they came up with the revised guidelines, they pinned the post to the top of the group. Here is what they posted: "The Buzz is a place on Facebook where those interested in South Carolina politics can discuss current events and related topics. We encourage thoughtful comments from a wide range of viewpoints, and support passionate and respectful dialogue. We will not tolerate personal attacks, threats, obscenity, profanity, political campaigning or commercial promotion. Moderators maintain the right to remove violating comments and suspend or ban users when necessary."
The State wanted to make sure all members of one of their Facebook groups understood their community guidelines. They also wanted to revisit the rules to clearly state what is allowed and what is not. Once they came up with the revised guidelines, they pinned the post to the top of the group. Here is what they posted: “The Buzz is a place on Facebook where those interested in South Carolina politics can discuss current events and related topics. We encourage thoughtful comments from a wide range of viewpoints and support passionate and respectful dialogue. We will not tolerate personal attacks, threats, obscenity, profanity, political campaigning or commercial promotion. Moderators maintain the right to remove violating comments and suspend or ban users when necessary.”
Screenshot from the comments on a post The Coloradoan made on Facebook, explaining how the news organization handles breaking news updates.
After posting news of a decision in a court case, the Coloradoan received criticism for the lack of information in the story from a Facebook commenter. The news organization responded to the user and explained that this was a breaking news story and they would be updating the story as they confirm details and receive more information.
Screenshot from a Facebook post, discussing The Coloradoan's price increase.
Earning trust is everyone’s job, and sometimes that involves customer service. A change in the cost of digital subscriptions led to lots of customer service complaints at the Coloradoan. While it’s not the newsroom’s department and the journalists could have brushed off the calls coming in, they decided to step in and help. In total the team answered and responded to about 100 calls. The team tracked complaints and issues, then worked to resolve them one at a time. One of their subscribers said the newsroom’s ability and willingness to help increased her level of trust in the news organization.
Screenshot from Reddit, where users are discussing a story shared by Discourse.
Discourse shared links to stories in appropriate subreddits on Reddit. They targeted subreddits that already existed, hoping to capture the attention of people who are already interested in the topic of their story and active on the platform. The news organization received some traction and has been continuing to share their stories in subreddits.
Screenshot from a WITF story on NPR's website, including the text "What questions do you still have about this topic? Email me..."
On a partnership series focused on energy in their region, WITF invited users to contact the reporter working on these stories directly. They also asked users what they want to know related to the topic of energy.
Screenshot showing text on the WITF website: "Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Send an email to..."
WITF asked their users for feedback in a simple, yet effective way by posing two questions at the end of stories on its website: “Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Send an email to…” If we ask for feedback, we often don’t focus on what we may have missed. By doing so, you are letting users see you want to know how the story could have been better and are willing to make stories the best they can be.
Screenshot from WCPO's Facebook page, showing an article where they asked for reader feedback.
WCPO followed the lead of ESPN and reported that an NFL player would be leaving the Bengals. Turns out it wasn’t true. WCPO addressed the mistake head-on by writing about how the mistake happened on their website. They shared their step-by-step reporting process, which involved relying on ESPN’s citing of anonymous sources. This led them to share their anonymous source policy and ask their audience for feedback. “Should we publish and air stories from other respected news organizations citing anonymous sources,” they asked. They then shared the article with a call for feedback on Facebook.
Screenshot showing the "Submit News" page on The Virginian-Pilot's website.
The Virginian-Pilot took a look at their contact form system and realized it was clunky. Instead of being forwarded directly to an email address, journalists had to login to a different system to access what was submitted. To fix this, they decided to redirect the “contact the newsroom” option to another form that was more easily accessible for the newsroom. This provided easier access to the tips and feedback from users and increased the likelihood of users receiving responses.
Screenshot from USA TODAY's Facebook page, highlighting how a story came together: "A USA TODAY reader wanted to know the details. Here's what we gathered"
USA TODAY used a reader’s question to build a story. The news organization could have responded directly to the question on social media but decided to take it a step further and make the answer its own story while highlighting the user and their question. It allowed the reader to get mentioned and feel “really seen” by the news organization.
The Day held a Q&A on Facebook by allowing individuals to ask questions by commenting on a post. The newsroom then replied and answered questions in the same comment thread. They invited multiple people from the newsroom to participate and respond. It resulted in a very lively discussion.
Screenshot from a Jefferson City News Tribune online story, showing the reporter's contact information at the end of the text.
The Jefferson City News Tribune added a line at the bottom of stories to provide users with one more reminder that they want feedback and providing it is as easy as sending an email. At this news organization, the email address is already listed online and in print, but they wanted to add it to one more location so users saw it one more time.
Screenshot showing invitation details for Jefferson City's Coffee with the Editor event
The Jefferson City News Tribune took their monthly “Coffee with the Editor” event to a local high school during parent-teacher conferences. This helped them reach a different audience than they normally do: parents, teachers and students. The also passed out information about how to contact the newsroom online, on social media, by email, etc.
Screenshot from the News Tribune's Facebook page, showing a post that asked readers: "What questions do you have about Gov. Eric Greitens' indictment? Tell us in a comment, and we'll do our best to answer them."
The Jefferson City News Tribune was covering a complicated political story that was changing quickly. While doing so, they asked their audience what questions they had about the story and attempted to answer them in real time.
To explain how they gather information and fact-check the information they receive, the Community Impact Newspaper group wrote a story for their website. The story focused on a recent article about opioid abuse and discussed how they try to balance opinions and viewpoints published in their news content.
To explain how they gather information and fact-check the information they receive, the Community Impact Newspaper group wrote a story for their website. The story focused on a recent article about opioid abuse and discussed how they try to balance opinions and viewpoints published in their news content.
Throughout an investigative story, WUSA explained to its users how they produced a story. The reporter began by relating to the community by explaining his connection to the city of Washington, D.C. Then the reporter explained what questions they were trying to answer by doing the story and why they felt it was an important story to produce. Throughout the story they discuss their reporting process and invite feedback and questions. The reporter even offers his cell phone to users on-air.
Throughout an investigative story, WUSA explained to its users how they produced a story. The reporter began by relating to the community by explaining his connection to the city of Washington, D.C. Then the reporter explained what questions they were trying to answer by doing the story and why they felt it was an important story to produce. Throughout the story they discuss their reporting process and invite feedback and questions. The reporter even offers his cell phone to users on-air.
While sharing a crime story on Facebook, the Coloradoan received questions about how they approach covering crime stories. In the comments section of the Facebook post, the news organization explained their crime coverage policy and answered questions from users.
While sharing a crime story on Facebook, the Coloradoan received questions about how they approach covering crime stories. In the comments section of the Facebook post, the news organization explained their crime coverage policy and answered questions from users.
After sharing some information about how they cover crime on Facebook, the Coloradoan decided to write a web story going into more detail about what their crime coverage policy is. By creating a separate page they are able to link to this when future questions up and can easily update it if their policy changes.
After sharing some information about how they cover crime on Facebook, the Coloradoan decided to write a web story going into more detail about what their crime coverage policy is. By creating a separate page they are able to link to this when future questions up and can easily update it if their policy changes.
When the comics printed in the paper were printed in black and white instead of color, there was a question from a reader, wondering why. The Standard-Examiner answered that question in a Q&A post on Facebook.
When the comics printed in the paper were printed in black and white instead of color, there was a question from a reader, wondering why. The Standard-Examiner answered that question in a Q&A post on Facebook. They addressed the financial factors behind the decision. “The Standard-Examiner strives to produce a daily product that readers enjoy, but when a local newspaper experiences unexpected increases in costs, it must find a way to adjust. This week is one such example.”
When the Olympics took place in a time zone 14 hours ahead of most U.S. audiences, USA TODAY faced complaints about "spoilers" in their coverage. This post explained why they prioritize sharing information as it happens, rather than waiting for prime time. Plus, they offered a few tips to help readers customize their notifications, good knowledge to share in many situations.
When the Olympics took place in a time zone 14 hours ahead of most U.S. audiences, USA TODAY faced complaints about “spoilers” in their coverage. This post explained why they prioritize sharing information as it happens, rather than waiting for prime time. Plus, they offered a few tips to help readers customize their notifications, good knowledge to share in many situations.
When a snowstorm delayed the delivery of their newspaper, the Virginian-Pilot published a story to their website and social media channels explaining that there would/could be a delay in delivery. The post also linked to a digital version of the newspaper that people could view immediately.
When a snowstorm delayed the delivery of their newspaper, the Virginian-Pilot published a story to their website and social media channels explaining that there would/could be a delay in delivery. The post also linked to a digital version of the newspaper that people could view immediately.
Your commenters can be some of your most opinionated readers, and sometimes they have questions about the comments themselves. The Virginian-Pilot created a FAQ that addressed questions about usernames, community guidelines, bans and more. Plus, having a clear policy can help when they do need to enforce the rules.
Your commenters can be some of your most opinionated readers, and sometimes they have questions about the comments themselves. The Virginian-Pilot created an FAQ that addressed questions about usernames, community guidelines, bans and more. Plus, having a clear policy can help when they do need to enforce the rules.
The Day took to Facebook to share candid photos of staffers, as well as explain their coverage areas and provide contact information for their newsroom and journalists. A post featuring a long-time community reporter was especially popular, showing that readers truly value the paper's commitment to local coverage.
The Day took to Facebook to share candid photos of staffers, as well as explain their coverage areas and provide contact information for their newsroom and journalists. A post featuring a long-time community reporter was especially popular, showing that readers truly value the paper’s commitment to local coverage.
Screenshot showing the Facebook invitation for the Jefferson City News Tribune's monthly "Coffee with the editor" events.
The Jefferson City News Tribune meets their community in coffee shops. The newsroom holds the meetings monthly with the editor and invites reporters to participate as well. They spend time answering questions and getting to know community members. They also make sure to pass out information about how the community can get in touch with them over the phone, on social media or by email.
Screenshot showing a form embedded on thegazette.com, asking readers "What questions do you have?"
The Gazette started using Google Forms to ask users if anything in their stories needed more reporting or explanation. The forms were primarily created for local stories they wanted to dig into more. This resulted in information for them to advance the story, and also, sometimes led to a new story to cover.
Screenshot from thegazette.com, showing a shaded box where the paper asked readers for feedback and ideas.
To help get more ideas on who they should talk to in their community, the Gazette decided to ask their users for help. Through a shaded pull-out box embedded in a web story, they asked for ideas identifying possible sources and general feedback on the story. In this example, it resulted in the newsroom receiving a handful of story ideas.
House ad that ran in The Cedar Rapids Gazette, asking readers to let the paper know: Do you trust us?
Asking for feedback is something that can be done on all mediums, including print. The Gazette used an advertisement in their print newspaper to ask people if they trust them. They found they received more detailed and helpful feedback from the people who responded after seeing the print ad vs. the digital posts asking for feedback.
Screenshot from the @CALmatters account on Twitter: "Feel free to DM us with areas of coverage you want but aren't getting from other outlets. I can pass along to the relevant reporters/editors."
CALmatters decided to get involved when a news consumer couldn’t find information related to a specific story by responding to a Twitter thread. They were able to point the person in the right direction and it only took a couple minutes of their time.
Screenshot from KCRG's Facebook page, where the station asked viewers to share whether or not they trust KCRG.
Have you ever asked your users if they trust you? This is a simple way to get feedback and something KCRG tried on Facebook and on their website. When posing the question on Facebook, journalists took time to answer the questions. Their users were polite for the most part and more importantly appreciated responses, even though some of their questions were difficult.
Screenshot from The Christian Science Monitor's Facebook page, explaining why the organization was implementing a paywall and inviting comments.
When instituting a paywall or changing what users will be able to access for free, it’s important to be upfront, honest and respond to criticism. That’s exactly what the Christian Science Monitor did when they limited the number of articles non-subscribers could read for free on their website. In their post, they talked about why this was happening and the emphasized the value of their reporting. Most importantly, they took time to respond to comments and questions from users. After this announcement, the news organization reported an increase in subscriptions.
Screenshot from The Christian Science Monitor's Facebook page, explaining why a frequent commenter was banned.
The Christian Science Monitor used the negative behavior of a frequent Facebook group commenter as an opportunity to reinforce the values of the group and the news organization. They also asked the community to help them maintain civil dialogue and asked group members what they wanted to get out of the group. The responses validated the value of their Facebook group for the newsroom and also reminded the journalists that sometimes Facebook users need to be reminded about community rules and guidelines.
Tweet from Annenberg Media, reading: Do you have a news tip, story or event you’d like us to cover? You can share your tips and suggestions at http://bit.ly/annenbergmedianewstip ...
Annenberg Media used a simple tweet and Google form to solicit story ideas and tips. If you want feedback, ask for it. When asking it’s important to meet the user where they are. Receiving an email may be easier for you, but sending a Facebook/Instagram Message, tweet, or text may be easier for your user.
Tweet from Annenberg Media, reading: Do you have a news tip, story or event you’d like us to cover? You can share your tips and suggestions at http://bit.ly/annenbergmedianewstip ...
Annenberg Media used a simple tweet and Google form to solicit story ideas and tips. If you want feedback, ask for it. When asking it’s important to meet the user where they are. Receiving an email may be easier for you, but sending a Facebook/Instagram Message, tweet, or text may be easier for your user.
Screenshot from a Facebook LIVE Q&A with KCRG's news director.
Bring yourself to your audience. That’s what KCRG did when they went live on Facebook to talk about their newsroom values and journalism processes. Some things people wanted to know included how they choose which stories to cover and how they manage social media posts. News managers were involved in the video too. The video received more than 8 thousand views.
Screenshot from WUSA's Facebook page, showing an interview conducted on Facebook LIVE.
Sometimes a story takes off on digital and social platforms. That’s what happened to WUSA when their reporter produced a story about domestic violence. There were so many comments and questions on the story content shared on Facebook that news management decided to give the reporter an entire day to respond and interact with the commenters. WUSA also did a Facebook LIVE with a local domestic violence expert.
Screenshot from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's page on Facebook, asking: What are we missing? And including instructions for community members to submit story ideas.
Want to know what types of stories your audience wants to see? Just ask them. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram used the hiring of a new investigative journalist to ask users “what are we missing?” The post, shared on Facebook and Twitter, invited users to share story ideas with the newsroom using a Google Form. As journalists we sometimes assume people know it’s OK to contact us but, that’s not always the case. A simple ask or invitation can go a long way.
Screenshot from the Civility Tennessee group page on Facebook.
Hot button issues like racism and gun control can be difficult to have on social media. The Tennessean wanted to create a “safe place” for their community to engage with one another on the platform, so, they created a Facebook group called “Civility Tennessee.” The group has resulted in healthy discussions and over 150 active members posting daily or weekly. The group is “closed” and users have to answer a few questions in order to gain access. This allows the newsroom to have more control over who is in the group and makes moderation a bit easier.
Screenshot from the Civility Tennessee group page on Facebook.
Hot button issues like racism and gun control can be difficult to have on social media. The Tennessean wanted to create a “safe place” for their community to engage with one another on the platform, so, they created a Facebook group called “Civility Tennessee.” The group has resulted in healthy discussions and over 150 active members posting daily or weekly. The group is “closed” and users have to answer a few questions in order to gain access. This allows the newsroom to have more control over who is in the group and makes moderation a bit easier.
Screenshot from tennessean.com, showing an invitation for more veterans to share their perspectives with the newspaper.
The staff at the Tennessean set up a “Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.” The group worked on identifying people in the community they wanted to hear more from and then invited them into their newsroom. Those groups included veterans, Muslims and gun owners. A common theme came out of these visits: people wanted to be included in responsible and accurate coverage. For the Tennessean these visits resulted in more sources for stories and more people submitting letters to the editor.
Screenshot from a Discourse Media newsletter
At Discourse, newsletters allow reporters the freedom to show more personality than they do in finished pieces. Here, the reporter shares how her goals, her sourcing, and some practical limitations (juggling deadlines!) shapes her reporting on a topic. Abundantly linking can also help readers follow along on their own.
Screenshot from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram page on Facebook. The image says: Readers, what do you want to see from us this year?
Meet readers where they are—on social media—to make it easy for them to share feedback and story ideas you might have missed. Responding to comments gave the Star-Telegram team additional opportunities to learn about their audience, share their ethics and values, and highlight recent coverage.
Screenshot from the Christian Science Monitor page on Facebook.
Planning a big story? Let readers chime in with the questions they’d like to see answered. The Christian Science Monitor saw “validation that our audience likes to be a part of the process” when they introduced their interns, shared their own goals for covering an upcoming political event, and prompted readers to share what they’d ask. They also set clear expectations of how reader questions would be used.
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627 likes on a comment! Look for opportunities to explain your process, especially when you see commenters asking questions about it. This comment shows a thoughtfulness behind word choices that not all news consumers would assume journalists have. This example also shows the value of staying involved in the conversations we host and participating in them.