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.”
Screenshot from the News Tribune's Facebook page, showing a post that asked readers: "What questions do you have about Gov. Eric Greitens' indictment? Tell us in a comment, and we'll do our best to answer them."
The Jefferson City News Tribune was covering a complicated political story that was changing quickly. While doing so, they asked their audience what questions they had about the story and attempted to answer them in real time.
Screenshot 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 embeded 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.