At Trusting News, we’re often asked by newsrooms how we know our strategies work. It’s an important question. We’re always happy to point to examples of what newsrooms say is effective but we’re also especially grateful when we have the chance to work with academic researchers. Through a series of focus groups, Trusting News and the Center for Media Engagement found that TV newsrooms can build trust with their audiences by explaining why a story is covered, providing additional resources at the end of stories and inviting audience participation. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
In the midst of covering protests in Cincinnati, WCPO director Mike Canan wrote a column reminding their users of their journalist’s dedication to providing fair coverage for their community by discussing how they were putting themselves in the middle of it all — risking danger from protests and the police while also facing the danger of contracting COVID. “At the same time, the middle is where we have to be. We need to be out there reporting,” Canan wrote. “But we also need to be showing both sides. We need to accurately and fairly reflect what is happening in our community.”
While reporting on a controversial police killing of an unarmed black man, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution included a note explaining their approach to covering the story: “Given the intense public interest in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe and how this incident may factor into policy changes and decisions on policing, the AJC has committed to providing the fullest, most complete coverage possible. That includes looking at the actions and backgrounds of both Rolfe and Brooks and how those may have shaped their encounter on Friday night … We will publish more information as soon as we can evaluate what is accurate and relevant, and give the material context, as is our usual practice.”
Station WEWS in Cleveland wrote a story directly addressing that misinformation was being spread on social media around how deaths related to COVID-19 were being reported. In the article, the newsroom tried to set the record straight by breaking down how reporters got information from the CDC and explaining how the county was tracking coronavirus cases and deaths. The station also reminded the public that neither health officials nor the media were trying to manipulate case numbers: “Despite what you may read in comments sections and on some questionably-sourced websites, health agencies are not conspiring to over-report or under-report COVID-19 deaths; their goal is to accurately report the disease’s impact on our communities.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
VOX media included a note at the bottom of a story related to the coronavirus outbreak that talked about the organization’s values and then tied it to an ask for user’s support. “Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn,” the editor’s note says. “Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The San Francisco Chronicle demonstrated transparency by explaining their reporting process for a story about the quick expansion of food delivery services in the city. The paper included the following statement in a box that was attached to the story: “Chronicle reporters interviewed six restaurant owners and four delivery drivers for this story, and contacted 19 restaurants to confirm that their listings on delivery apps were unauthorized. In addition, a Chronicle reporter ordered food from two restaurants listed on Grubhub without their permission to see how the delivery experience would work.”
While other news sources were reporting the names of those who were violating Cincinnati’s stay-at-home violations, WPCO Senior Director Mike Canan took the opportunity to differentiate his newsroom’s approach from the competition. Instead of publishing specific names, Canan said he “challenged our team to do more. I wanted context on how law enforcement was making these decisions and what the data was showing. Ultimately, one person’s name is less important to the community as the pattern of behavior,” Canan wrote. “What we found is that mostly the people involved committed other crimes and police simply tacked the stay-at-home violation on.” Canan shared this information in a series of tweets while linking to the story.
The San Fransisco Chronicle used a story about a lawsuit against the city to explain more of its reporting process to their readers. The paper included a box in the story that gave readers insight into how the reporting was done, including information on how many people the reporter interviewed and reminding users about the extent of the paper’s past coverage on the topic. “Reporter Carolyn Said has interviewed more than two dozen taxi drivers over the past few years about their industry’s implosion since the advent of Uber and Lyft and their struggles to pay their medallion loans. She has written several articles about this issue, also including perspectives from the Municipal Transportation Agency and the city’s taxi companies,” the box read. “Last week she met with two attorneys for the San Francisco Federal Credit Union who provided hundreds of pages of court filings from both the credit union and the city, flagging several items that they viewed as ‘smoking guns.'”
After hearing allegations and rumors in the community questioning the organization’s quality of work, the publisher of Levittown Now, Tom Sofield, took to Facebook Live to shed some light on the newsroom’s reporting process. Sofield said there was misinformation spreading around the community surrounding a recently published story about the threat of lawsuits in a local school district, and he wanted to set the record straight. In the Facebook Live, he explained how the paper reported the story, including how they fact-checked the story and what public documents they used. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
When The Oklahoman published an investigation into the lack of regulations of midwives in the state, the paper included a video Q&A with the reporter and a written column that expanded on the paper’s reporting process. The column addressed questions such as why the paper looked into this topic in the first place, how the reporters obtained public records, and why they did not name of some families involved in the lawsuit, even though it was public information. “As investigative journalists, our job is to tell in-depth stories that make communities safer, healthier and more knowledgeable. When we invest many months in stories like this, it’s because we uncover information that we think the public needs to know and can’t find anywhere else,” the column read. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Globe and Mail added expandable, in-article explainers on their website to provide more information and context about their reporting process within the stories themselves. “The transparency aspect of the feature sheds light on newsroom conversations happening at the Globe around what the reporting standards and guidelines are,” an article sharing the changes said. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
After getting questions and complaints from readers, WEWS used clear language to explain to viewers why the numbers of people who recover from COVID-19 aren’t shared alongside the death counts in Ohio. Digital producer Ian Cross wrote a column to explain: “So to answer the question: There is no conspiracy by the media to suppress good news about the coronavirus, as some have suggested. It’s a simple matter of available data.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Reporter Caitlin Dewey Rainwater at the Buffalo News used her one-year anniversary of working at the paper to show the breadth of the journalism she had produced at the paper so far. She did this through publishing a thread on Twitter highlighting seven stories she had written that she was especially proud of. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Herald and Review used a Twitter thread to highlight some of their best journalism, showing their audience the variety and depth of their journalism. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
When faced with a big story, journalists know how to mobilize. We quickly identify angles, send staffers to key locations and set up a system for producing and editing content back in the newsroom. Do most news consumers understand what a commitment of resources that is? Of course not — any more than most of us understand everything that happens at an MLB ballpark on opening day, behind the scenes at a church on Christmas Eve or with a construction crew building a housing development. Unless you’ve been through it, you just can’t picture it. What if offering a window into the complexity of your work could help lend credibility and inspire an appreciation for the efforts? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
During breaking news about a school shooting, staff at KPCC/LAist showed the breadth of their coverage by including a “How we’re reporting on this box” at the end of the story, explaining which journalists reported each aspect of the story. This also helps build credibility with your audience by introducing individual reporters. This newsroom is a Trusting News partner but this work was done independently from Trusting News.
When you ask someone about the news, their mind might go directly to politics, crime or breaking news coverage. But we know we offer a lot more than that. It’s important we remind our audiences of this. Why? If people only think of polarizing or sensational topics when they think of your news coverage, it’s going to be more difficult to build trust with them. We need to remind them about the range of news we cover, especially the content that helps improve their lives or make informed decisions. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
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 communities are faced with a big decision at the ballot box, we try our best to provide the facts. The Tennessean did that in an editorial but also included a section that shared who the journalists met with and talked to while putting the story together. The ballot measure ended up failing, but the newsroom received positive feedback about their in-depth coverage on the issue.
When communities are faced with a big decision at the ballot box, we try our best to provide the facts. The Tennessean did that in an editorial but also included a section that shared who the journalists met with and talked to while putting the story together. The ballot measure ended up failing, but the newsroom received positive feedback about their in-depth coverage on the issue.
The Jefferson City News Tribune used a pull-out box to highlight the variety of coverage and different perspectives included in their stories about an issue. The news organization addressed that the story was about an issue people have mixed feelings about. They then explained what the current article was going to highlight and focus on and then linked to stories that provided a different perspective. They also linked to opinion pieces about the topic.
The Jefferson City News Tribune used a pull-out box to highlight the variety of coverage and different perspectives included in their stories about an issue. The news organization addressed that the story was about an issue people have mixed feelings about. They then explained what the current article was going to highlight and focus on and then linked to stories that provided a different perspective. They also linked to opinion pieces about the topic.
The Jefferson City News Tribune created story pages for some of their bigger stories that provided a summary of the issue and then links to the previous stories written. In addition to a well-written summary of the issue, the news organization highlighted how "balanced and accurate reporting" was a priority for them and that creating a page like this, a one-stop shop with story links for big issues, is one way they are working to provide a full view of the issues.
The Jefferson City News Tribune created story pages for some of their bigger stories that provided a summary of the issue and then links to the previous stories written. In addition to a well-written summary of the issue, the news organization highlighted how “balanced and accurate reporting” was a priority for them and that creating a page like this, a one-stop shop with story links for big issues, is one way they are working to provide a full view of the issues.
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.
While working on a long-term investigative project about local law enforcement, WCPO thought about how their users may respond to the story once it was published. They realized they may get pushback for investigating police officers and decided to publish a story explaining why they are holding law enforcement accountable. They also highlight how being a watchdog is part of their mission as a news organization. The news team said the explainer story helped keep the focus on their reporting and what they uncovered instead of anti-cop rhetoric they were anticipating.
While working on a long-term investigative project about local law enforcement, WCPO thought about how their users may respond to the story once it was published. They realized they may get pushback for investigating police officers and decided to publish a story explaining why they are holding law enforcement accountable. They also highlight how being a watchdog is part of their mission as a news organization. The news team said the explainer story helped keep the focus on their reporting and what they uncovered instead of anti-cop rhetoric they were anticipating.
In an on-air story, WUSA added language to highlight their committment to following-up on stories. They discussed how following up on important stories is a priority and part of responsible journalism. Adding the language was easy to do and felt right, according to the news organization.
In an on-air story, WUSA added language to highlight their commitment to following-up on stories. They discussed how following up on important stories is a priority and part of responsible journalism. Adding the language was easy to do and felt right, according to the news organization.
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.
Explaining why you're covering a story can help readers understand your motivations. WCPO used language like "we wanted to better understand communities that often are in the news only when crime has occurred there" can speak to those who assume journalists only want to drum up controversy and negativity.
Explaining why you’re covering a story can help readers understand your motivations. WCPO used language like “we wanted to better understand communities that often are in the news only when crime has occurred there” can speak to those who assume journalists only want to drum up controversy and negativity.
When WCPO reported on a public official's improper--but not illegal--behavior, they anticipated that readers might question their motivations. So, the news organization published a separate story explaining why editors found the behavior to be newsworthy and how the incident related to larger issues in local government. A call-out reinforced WCPO's commitment to transparent coverage and invited feedback.
When WCPO reported on a public official’s improper–but not illegal–behavior, they anticipated that readers might question their motivations. So, the news organization published a separate story explaining why editors found the behavior to be newsworthy and how the incident related to larger issues in local government. A call-out reinforced WCPO’s commitment to transparent coverage and invited feedback.
Audience members don't always understand the work that goes into a big investigative piece. WITF shined a light on a five-month projecy by discussing all of the work that went into the story: dozens of interviews, hundreds of miles traveled, tons of documents analyzed and input from several editors. In this case, the reporter was happy to share "the story behind the story," which both emphasizes the costs of serious reporting and reinforces the organization's commitment to fair, in-depth reporting.
Audience members don’t always understand the work that goes into a big investigative piece. WITF shined a light on a five-month projecy by discussing all of the work that went into the story: dozens of interviews, hundreds of miles traveled, tons of documents analyzed and input from several editors. In this case, the reporter was happy to share “the story behind the story,” which both emphasizes the costs of serious reporting and reinforces the organization’s commitment to fair, in-depth reporting.

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

WCPO addiction story
WCPO highlighted their commitment to their community in a Facebook post when they shared a link to a story about heroin addiction. They focused on how this particular story is one of hope.