After incorrect information was spreading in the community about how city officials were allegedly hiding Coronavirus numbers from the public, the Tennessean wrote a fact check countering the misinformation. The story addressed the misinformation and explained where the confusion was. By correcting the record the newsroom was able to demonstrate to their readers that they care about getting things right.
The Colorado Sun wrote a columnn about their newsroom’s approach to the 2020 elections, which included how they work to be fair, why they are trustworthy and how they decide what election news to cover — and not cover. “Our mission is to inform more than infuriate by telling stories that hold elected officials accountable and help readers better understand what’s happening within the state’s democratic institutions and political arena,” the column reads. “This particularly applies to our 2020 election coverage.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
After a controversial story about President Trump that cited an anonymous source published in The Atlantic, editor and chief of The Deseret Dave Wilks used the opportunity to write about the history of anonymous sources and explain The Deseret’s policy on the matter. Wilks wrote that at The Deseret, “a reporter must reveal his or her sources to an editor before we consider publication. I am involved as executive editor on key stories and revelations attributed to anonymous sources. Often our response to the reporter is, keep reporting. Find on-the-record sources.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
After WCPO decided not to disclose the identity of a student who hosted a party despite being diagnosed with COVID-19, the station’s content manager Ted Wilson wrote a column explaining their decision and the journalism ethics associated with it. “Often, the journalist’s job is not just to report the facts but also to balance the impact of their reporting among all the stakeholders in a story,” Wilson wrote. “In this case, WCPO 9 News chose to report what happened while trying to respect the privacy rights of the accused.”
As journalists, it’s not our job to protect the public from information that is hard to hear or might increase their stress. But it is worth considering whether our journalism contributes to or assuages their anxiety. We can choose to air a highlight reel of chaos, or we can choose to provide calm, measured context. As this year’s election unfolds, that means reminding the public what we expect to see, what is unusual, what safeguards are in place, how long it will likely take for votes to be counted and what they can do to protect their own vote and stay informed. A significant chunk of your audience is probably exhausted by news coverage. Back in February, a Pew Research Center survey showed that two-thirds of U.S. adults are worn out by the news. And it’s fair to say the volume of news hasn’t decreased this year! So, how can journalists respond to that mood in a way that respects the experience of consuming their product? In a crowded, exhausting information landscape, how can your journalism stand out as a responsible, important part of your audience’s information diet? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Staff at KBOO in Oregon redid their About page, which included the station’s mission statement, information about staff, how it operates, it’s journalistic values, and how audience members can share feedback. The station also included a specific section about the newsroom’s commitment to facts and unbiased election coverage. “During our election coverage we will be focusing on stories that provide you the facts and context you need to make informed decisions. We promise to focus on information that is helpful and not exaggerated, sensationalized or politicized,” the page reads.
After facing viewer questions about political ads, WCPO’s general manager Jeff Brogan wrote a column explaining how political advertising works for broadcasters. In the column he explains the FCC rules for political advertising and how the station is legally not allowed to edit or alter ads ads they recieve from candidates. “WCPO 9 and our parent company, E.W. Scripps, support the freedom of speech principles of the First Amendment, which emphasize a robust and open debate about the political process,” Brogan writes. “Although some of today’s political action committees might use aggressive tactics during the campaign season, their ads fall under free speech and have a right to be on a broadcast.”
During election season, people can be inundated with political advertisements — from candidates, parties, PAC’s and other groups. If you publish or air any of these ads (which most news organizations do) you probably have received complaints about them from your users. Some may be confused as to why this is showing up on your station. Others may be upset about the content inside the ads. And they might be jumping to incorrect or unfair conclusions about you. While some people may understand that your news organization is airing or publishing the ads just as you would with any other business (a car dealership or ice cream shop), too many people don’t actually understand how it works. They may have questions like: Why are you choosing to run ads from certain groups? Are the ads edited or changed before you air or publish them? Do you get the final say in what you publish/air? Is anyone fact-checking them? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
During racial unrest in the country after George Floyd’s death, Crosscut recognized that the newsroom needed to also make adjustments to make sure their staff was accurately representing their community in their coverage. “The Crosscut newsroom is in the process of examining our own policies and practices, including the diversity of our newsroom, and we’re taking a hard look at how we’re applying these journalistic standards to make sure critical perspectives aren’t left out in our pursuit of the truth,” the article read. The newsroom went on to ask for the public’s help and input in keeping them accountable to make these changes: “We need your input because our mission is to earn and deepen trust, which is not the same thing as getting us all to agree. But if you find yourself unable to find credibility in what we say, we want to hear why and explore how we can do better.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Wirecutter at the New York Times wrote a column explaining the website had removed previous reporting with outdated information from the CDC about the need for wearing face masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic. “US officials recommend that you wear a mask to try to protect others—and possibly yourself—from the coronavirus. But that hasn’t always been their advice. Because of these changes, some of our reporting from earlier this year has become so outdated that we’ve unpublished it from our site,” the column read. “This is why we’ve taken down our outdated advice and replaced it with this: You should wear a mask to try to protect others—and possibly yourself—from the coronavirus.”
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.

 

News 5 Cleveland wrote a story explaining why they don’t report on police scanner traffic even though it’s technically public information. “We don’t report on scanner traffic because relying only on those initial reports increases the likelihood that the story will be incomplete, untrue or devoid of what is so essential in any breaking news story — context,” the station’s digital director Joe Donatelli wrote. “A resident, a dispatcher or a first responder arriving on scene does not have a complete view of what has occurred.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Instead of leaving it up to their audience to guess why they sometimes don’t include police descriptions of suspects in breaking news stories, Digital Director of News 5 Cleveland Joe Donatelli wrote a column explaining the station’s process: “When a news organization offers only racial and gender identifiers as part of its news reports for years, or decades, what is the more likely outcome: that these extremely vague descriptions will better inform the public, or that we will be a party to unintentionally perpetuating stereotypes? In our judgment, sharing vague descriptions that are of little value repeatedly to a mass audience does more harm than good.” The station also has a link to their explainers that touch on newsroom process all in one place, which not only makes it easily accessible for users but also demonstrates to their audience they are willing to be transparent around their ethics, values and processes. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
ProPublica wrote a thoughtful explanation of why they decided to publish a disturbing video of a suspect who died while in police custody. The explanation also addresses the ethics of publishing their investigation without family cooperation: “In the end, we have come down on the side of giving the fullest possible account of what our story terms “a recurrent tragedy — a person in mental crisis dying in law enforcement custody. This video could be traumatizing to those who see it. It depicts the harsh treatment of yet another person of color at the hands of law enforcement. Some have argued that the media should stop releasing video of law enforcement officials inflicting harm on black or brown bodies. While recognizing that viewpoint, we hope that the significance of this story outweighs the pain it causes.” The newsroom also prominently linked to the explanation on the story page so that anytime someone interacts with the story for the first time, they’re invited to learn more about the ethics and process behind it. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Indiana Daily Student Editor Tristan Jackson wrote a column sharing that the paper was no longer going to show photos that identified people involved in protests over the killing of George Floyd. Jackson said he recognized there was a growing concern over the well being of protesters, which is why the paper was breaking their normal policy and removed any already published photos that identified protesters. “How we as journalists cover these protests is an ongoing discussion, but right now as a human being I think we have an obligation to protect others from potential harm,” Jackson wrote. “Editorial judgment must be used in balancing this guideline with seek truth and report it, which is something I took into account in making this decision.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Have you explained how your organization’s ownership affects or doesn’t affect, the content you produce? The Weather Company did this by including a note at the bottom of their stories: “The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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 noticed that they were receiving the same questions and criticisms from viewers whenever they ended a live stream of President Trump’s press conferences early. In response, news director Dave Strickland wrote a column explaining why the station hadn’t been airing the full live press conferences. “During the past of weeks or so, the president’s press conferences have moved away from emergency information. At that point, I have made the decision to leave the press conference and return to regular programming. I have made similar decisions during the county judge and Houston’s mayor’s news conferences as well as Governor Greg Abbott’s pressers,” Strickland wrote. “The bottom line is that KPRC Channel 2 will continue to air these press conferences during this national emergency. How long we stay with each of the individuals is determined by how much critical information is being delivered by the government during the news conferences.”
When station WLNS wrote a story about a suicide, which the organization normally doesn’t do, they included a disclaimer in the story text itself explaining why this case was an exception. “6 News does not normally report on suicides but given the rumors circulating about this incident, the Clinton County statement is being posted to avoid the spread of misinformation in our community,” the story read. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
ProPublica sent out a newsletter to the people who have supported them financially that talked directly about political bias in news. The organization’s president Richard Tofel, who penned the newsletter, shared that yes, the newsroom has written more stories critical of President Trump than President Obama, and went on to explain in detail why that’s the case. Tofel also was very transparent about what ProPublica’s audience looked like (that it tends to be more liberal) and why they wish they had more conservative and non-white readers. “ProPublica would be more effective if our readership contained a proportion of people of color closer to the population of the country, and if it contained a similar proportion of self-identified conservatives,” Tofel wrote. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
When the heartbreaking photos of a young dad and his toddler who drowned trying to cross the border into the United States emerged, news organizations had to make the difficult decision of whether they would show the graphic photo alongside their reporting. When USA TODAY made the call that they would run the photo, standards editor Manny Garcia wrote a column explaining the reasoning behind the decision. “This is a story that must be told — fully and truthfully, with context and perspectives from all sides … Death is a constant along the border, but rarely is it captured in such a direct way,” Garcia wrote. It’s likely the column got much less traffic than the actual news story itself, leading to the assumption that a lot of readers didn’t see or know the level of thought the paper put behind this decision to run the graphic photo. To level up, we recommend including a sentence about their decision and linking to the column in the caption of the photo itself. That way the explanation would appear alongside the photo in every story it was attached to.
WCPO decided their newsroom would severely limit the number of crime mugshots it used on its website. Director Mike Canan wrote a column explaining the change, specifically addressing how mugshots often disproportionately represented people of color and people with mental health issues while rarely added to the value of the actual reporting. The station also explicitly listed its new protocol for how it would use mugshots, inviting its audience to hold them accountable to their own standards. “We think it is ethical and responsible without harming our commitment to accurate journalism,” Canan wrote.
Like many businesses, news organizations are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Financial creativity and cutbacks might be required, and new revenue streams can help keep the lights on. But news organizations are in a situation that other businesses are not: While they might need and qualify for outside financial support, they are also expected to fairly cover the business impact of the virus. As a journalist in a newsroom, you likely don’t have control over whether your newsroom accepts a loan from the government or applies for grants from a foundation or company. What journalists CAN control (or at least advocate for) is being transparent about any funds received. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here. 
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.
As rumors swirled that local journalists had altered photos of beaches reopening in Florida during the coronavirus pandemic, reporter Vic Micolucci of WJXT4 in Jacksonville decided to address accusations directly in a Facebook post. Micolucci included several images and explained the differences between them based on angle, camera and lens choices. “Kindly lay off local journalists working hard to cover a situation. I can assure you almost all of us, my competitors included, have good, honest intentions of keeping you informed and safe, Micolucci wrote. “A helicopter shot looks different from a drone shot which looks different from a telephoto shot which looks different from a smart phone shot. The optics are different. The angles are different. As your car mirrors say, objects may appear further than they are. Use your best judgement.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
When accusations of local journalists altering a photo at a rally were being widely spread on Facebook, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a story that gave a step-by-step look at their reporting process and what actually happened. The story explains how the rumors started, why they gained traction and ends with a plea to the public to help the paper correct misinformation if readers see the rumors on social media. “It is unethical and a violation of Journal Sentinel policy to alter, manipulate or change a news photograph in any way beyond basic toning for reproduction,” the story states. “The Journal Sentinel asks people of goodwill to share the truth about this photo if they see false accusations being shared by friends on their Facebook feeds or other social networks.”
Newsrooms hear a lot of accusations that they use photos and videos to misrepresent or even manipulate reality. We’ve heard from journalists lately wondering whether it’s best to ignore or respond to accusations of “fake news” and photo or video manipulation. We’ve also seen confusion and misassumptions in our own social networks and in comments on news stories when it comes to telling what’s real. Here’s what we at Trusting News want newsrooms to remember in those situations: It’s fair for news consumers to be skeptical. They shouldn’t automatically believe what they see, and it’s genuinely tricky to know which news brands are trustworthy. (Some aren’t.) No one but you is going to explain what makes your own work credible. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
The 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.
When the student newspaper The Echo was writing about possible Title IX violations at its school, the paper included an editor’s note at the bottom of the story to let readers know about possible conflicts of interest. “It should be noted that because of Cal Lutheran’s small enrollment, some of our editors have personal connections with individuals mentioned in this article; however, involvement with reporting for anyone with a prior relationship was minimized. This article was reviewed by two media law experts including Sharon Docter, a professor of communication at Cal Lutheran.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
When quoting an anonymous source in an article about the spread of COVID-19 at a local nursing home, the San Fransisco Chroncile included a box that explained what an anonymous source is and the newsroom’s policies for using them. “The Chronicle strives to attribute all information we report to credible, reliable, identifiable sources. Presenting information from an anonymous source occurs extremely rarely, and only when that information is considered crucially important and all other on-the-record options have been exhausted,” the box read. “In such cases, The Chronicle has complete knowledge of the unnamed person’s identity and of how that person is in position to know the information.”
In a story about presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, the San Fransisco Chroncicle inserted language in the story to tell readers how and why they were covering Democratic presidential candidates, and how the paper was striving to provide equal coverage. “The Chronicle is examining how California would look if the major Democratic presidential candidates were elected and could implement their top policy priorities,” the box read. “Candidates’ positions are taken from their websites, their campaign comments, and in some cases legislation they have sponsored in office.”
After facing accusations that a photojournalist altered a photo that showed a closed beach packed with people during the coronavirus pandemic, the Caller-Times wrote a column exculpating the photo. “We often face criticism and recognize people are entitled to opinions about what and how we cover the news. It comes with the territory. It also doesn’t change the facts. That’s why we typically let it roll on by and focus on what’s important: informing our community,” editor Mary Ann Cavazos Beckett wrote. “But when several people continued to spread false information about how and when the beach photo was taken it became concerning.” Beckett also explained and linked to the paper’s ethics policy and mission statement, reminding their audience of the paper’s commitment to accuracy and the community.
WTXL decided to stop publishing mugshots in the majority of its crime stories. The station’s general manager Matt Brown wrote in a column explaining that the decision was out of a commitment to “tell stories that go beyond the irrelevant and isolated stories on the crime beat, and instead focus on stories that give you a true sense of your community through context, perspective and impact. We will still cover significant and impactful crimes in your community. We will still publish stories with mugshots of persons wanted or arrested for noteworthy or impactful crimes in your community.” Brown ended the column by stating he hoped the change would be a positive one for the community and offered a place for users to offer their feedback about the decision. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
NPR published its ethics handbook and made it searchable so people could easily find information about the organization’s policies and practices. The handbook goes over topics ranging from how NPR decides when to use anonymous sources to how the newsroom strives to represent diverse people and perspectives. The policies are written in clear, straightforward language so it is easy for anyone — especially people outside of journalism — to understand. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
NPR created an internal checklist for its journalists to ensure their reporting is as accurate as possible. The checklist is a list of items reporters and producers should double-check before handing the story off to an editor, such as name spellings, dates, and titles. A training document publically published online also included clear information as to how NPR journalists should alert an editor when a correction needed to be made. “The checklist that follows is a reminder of things we all know we should do,” former Standards & Practices editor Mark Memmott wrote. “We know we will make mistakes. But we all need to do what we can to reduce them.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The editor of the Globe and Mail, Sylvia Stead, wrote a column explaining the paper’s policy for using anonymous sources. The column included a list of recent stories where their journalists used anonymous sources, why they felt it was necessary to include unnamed sources, and also linked to their code of conduct. “These days when some are quick to blame the messenger and cry ‘fake’ when it’s something they don’t like, it is incumbent on the media to use anonymous sources with care and to be as open as possible about that person’s background and expertise,” Stead wrote. “As the code says, the point of anonymous sources is to ‘get the fullest story possible, not to let people dodge accountability or take anonymous potshots.’” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do. 
The Globe and Mail posted its Editorial Code of Conduct on its website, letting its audience know about their newsroom’s mission and goals. The code of conduct included information on many different aspects of the newsroom’s standards, including its policy for deleting comments and how their journalists fact-checked stories. “The Globe and Mail’s long-standing tradition of journalistic integrity and credibility
 is essential to its reputation as Canada’s most trusted news source,” the code of conduct reads. “This reputation 
is rooted in the conduct of the editorial staff. Unless all employees strive for the highest standards of journalistic integrity, we cannot hope to sustain the trust we have inspired in our readers for generations.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Student reporters at Cronkite News gave their audience a behind-the-scenes look at their reporting process while covering a teacher strike in Arizona through a video series called “Full Circle.” In the video, they showed their reporting process, from how they decided which shots they tried while out in the field to their editorial meeting where they discussed coverage and the paper’s story selection process. “Our goal is to be transparent in our planning and reporting the news of the day. So we are taking you from pitch to prime time and even inside our post newscast meeting,” the video states. “We’ll document the work of our reporters, editors and producers as we prepare stories for our Arizona PBS audience.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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.”
You most likely already have newsroom policies. You probably reviewed them during one of your first days on the job. Maybe you still refer to them while writing or editing a story or responding to a user complaint. Newsroom policies often cover things like: Corrections and accuracy Financial independence Political independence Commitment to diversity Unnamed sources Photo and video editing and ethics Conflicts of interest It’s important to have your policies clear internally. But, what if you also talked publicly about your ethics? What if you also explained when stories are corrected, how a user can tell if a story has been corrected, and how they can submit their own corrections? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Telling your users how long you have been reporting on what’s happening in your community can be powerful. It can also help lend credibility to your organization. When talking about your history, be sure to focus on the impact you have had in the community instead of big-name hires or printing press changes. Consider writing about the big stories you’ve seen the community through. Include old pictures of the newsroom, your building, your front pages or your newscasts. Think about including information like coverage area expansions or changes, the addition of new beats or the development of a podcast, video show, etc. Be sure to include any ownership changes, community event sponsorships and awards too. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
What is your news organization’s mission? What communities do you cover, and how long have you been in business? What do you value, and what are your standards? Who works in your newsroom, and how are they reachable? How do you make money? These are all basic questions people might have about your news organization, but could they easily find the answers on your website, in your paper or on your social media profiles? At Trusting News we find that a lot of newsrooms have information answering these questions somewhere, but it’s not always easy to find and it’s almost always written using journalism jargon. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
When a reporter at the Burlington Free Press used an unnamed source in a story, an editor at the paper, April McCullum, wrote a column explaining the paper’s policy and why they OK’d the use of the unnamed source. McCullum listed the factors that went into the decision-making process and linked to the paper’s ethics policy. “This is not something we do lightly, ” she wrote. “After much discussion inside the newsroom, we decided that the value to the reader of this family’s perspective warranted agreeing to their request.”
Posting your organization’s guiding principles in a prominent place is a good way to share your mission with your audience. Entercom did this by publicly posting the organization’s core principles on their website’s “About Us” page. “We are a mission-driven company. We care. A lot. We care about our communities, our listeners, our customers, our brands, our partners, our company, our work, and our teammates,” they wrote. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Gazette shared its policy for removing content from its website. “There are many reasons we write stories about public safety and arrests. While details of many of the stories are gleaned from publicly available records, the passage of time changes how newsworthy the story is,” the policy states. “Using the criteria below, The Gazette will consider requests for removal of non-felony and non-violent criminal offenses. Other cases will be handled on an individual basis.” Publicly sharing your organization’s processes and guidelines show transparency and allows the public to hold your organization accountable.
Annenberg Media is continuing its video series “Full Disclosure” on TikTok. The series explains newsroom processes, like why reporters don’t use the Oxford comma or use hyphens when identifying people’s origins. These videos help give the audience insight into the newsroom’s decision-making process while also showing the reporters’ personalities.
When USC Annenberg wrote a story that included information from an official on background, instead of leaving it to the audience to assume what that meant, the reporters explained the term clearly in the story itself. “A USC official told Annenberg Media on background that Harrington had thought about stepping down for a long time and that her decision was not related to the college admissions bribery scandal. On background means that we cannot disclose our source,” the story reads.
KPRC 2 shared the station’s guidelines on how they cover crime. By publishing these standards the station is able to link to this when future questions arise and can update it if their policy changes. “We want you to know that often the details of the story and crime dictate how we might approach covering an incident, so our approach may not always be the same in each case,” the guidelines read.
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.”
Grady Newsource publicly posted it’s guiding principles on their “About Us” page, including its mission, reporting process and newsroom standards. The principles state in clear language how the paper handles corrections, verifies facts and explains it’s protocol when covering sensitive situations, like sexual assault accusations and suicide. “Our mission is to serve the residents of Northeast Georgia by informing them in a way that helps them make decisions about and understand their lives and communities,” they wrote. The news team also admits that defining “what is news,” can be difficult but they try to be consistent and pick stories based on their mission and principles.
Staff at The Day used strong language on their subscription page to explain who they are and what they stood for. They reminded readers that their journalists live, shop and play in the same community. They also shared some basic information about the paper’s funding.
What do you say when someone calls the newsroom asking you to remove a story from your website? Do you have a consistent way to handle the situation — both in what you say and in whether you honor the request? We talk a lot about transparency at Trusting News. Often, the first step to transparency is determining whether you’re ready to shine a light on your practices. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
There are sadly a lot of ways for journalists to think they’re explaining themselves while still actually being quite obtuse. We tend to use coded language that doesn’t mean much to our audiences. One of those ways is with disclosure statements when explaining potential conflicts of interest. We often acknowledge the issue without explaining what it really means or how we’re working to make sure it doesn’t affect the integrity of our work. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Creating change is hard. Some people embrace it with open arms, but for others it’s scary, difficult and unwanted. A lack of buy-in or support from colleagues is something most (all?) of our newsroom partners have encountered when trying to implement Trusting News strategies into their workflow. But journalism is a team sport, and we rely on cooperation and collaboration to get the job done. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
No journalist I’ve ever met is unbothered by inaccuracy. Depending on the type, errors can make us nauseous, embarrassed, angry or many other strong negative feelings. Sometimes, mistakes are a matter of carelessness, and sometimes they result from a reasonable process that somehow let us down. Either way, standard practice is to correct our errors publicly and move on as quickly as possible. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Lately, I’ve been talking to some newsrooms about creating ethics landing pages for their websites. What is an ethics landing page? It’s a place where a news organization discusses it’s ethics policies and how it makes news decisions. These pages may look different newsroom to newsroom, but the reason they exist is to provide a one-stop-shop for users to understand why one story is covered and another isn’t, how fact-checking works, why one image is included in a story over another, etc. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Breaking news is a term that elicits varied feelings for journalists. It seems to always be a hectic time, with people and information moving at lightning speeds. It’s also when news organizations have an opportunity to fulfill one of their top duties: providing accurate information to the public. While a lot of us thrive and feel an adrenaline rush during breaking news situations, it’s also a time when most mistakes happen. And our audiences notice. To read more from this edition click here and you can sign up for the weekly “Trust Tips” newsletter by clicking here.
Whether it’s the TV affiliation your station has or your corporate owner based on the other side of the country, talking about and being transparent about who owns your news organization can be an important part of earning the trust of your users. For many reporters and possibly even editors, the impact of who owns the paper, website, or TV or radio station may not be felt on a daily basis. But do you tell your users that? To read more from this edition click here and you can sign up for the weekly “Trust Tips” newsletter by clicking here.
When faced with suicide, journalists have decisions to make — about whether to publish, but also about things like whether to use names and photos, what details to include and what words to use. Those decisions often take into account whether the death was in their own community or happened elsewhere, whether it happened publicly or privately, and whether the person involved was a public or private figure. It’s important not to forget, however, that newsroom decisions and policies are largely invisible to audiences. To read more from this edition click here and you can sign up for the weekly “Trust Tips” newsletter by clicking here.
You’ve probably heard it by now: The public doesn’t know what “anonymous source” means. I experienced this firsthand while talking to a group of video game journalists several years ago. Their assumption was that when a journalist quotes someone anonymously, the journalist doesn’t know the identity of the person and has never talked to the person. I explained that in most cases the journalist knows the source’s identity, and their editor likely does as well. After explaining this, it felt like everyone had lightbulbs going off inside their heads. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
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.
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.
The Coloradoan added a note to the top of a story about allegations of sexual misconduct against a local comedian.
The Coloradoan added a note to the top of a story about allegations of sexual misconduct against a local comedian. The newspaper posted their story on the issue later than other news organizations and wanted to explain why. The note read: “To investigate this story, the Coloradoan spent the past month vetting accounts, speaking to police and interviewing all parties involved before publishing this story.” In addition, they wrote a separate editorial about their decision to wait on publishing that explained their reporting process and decision making.
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.
The Standard-Examiner hosted a Facebook Live to describe how their news process works. During the video the newspaper's executive editor and publisher talked about how they make coverage decisions, select stories and how the editorial process works. They took questions live from the audience and received more than 2,000 views.
The Standard-Examiner hosted a Facebook Live to describe how their news process works. During the video, the newspaper’s executive editor and publisher talked about how they make coverage decisions, select stories and how the editorial process works. They took questions live from the audience and received more than 2,000 views.
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.
Sometimes explaining why you are not covering a story is just as helpful for your users as explaining why you are covering one. KCRG did just that when users asked them why they were not covering all school threats happening in the community. They decided to write an explainer story on their website explaining when and why they will cover school threats and also when they will not. The policy was one that was known inside the newsroom but it was the first time they were making their policy public.
Sometimes explaining why you are not covering a story is just as helpful for your users as explaining why you are covering one. KCRG did just that when users asked them why they were not covering all school threats happening in the community. They decided to write an explainer story on their website explaining when and why they will cover school threats and also when they will not. The policy was one that was known inside the newsroom but it was the first time they were making their policy public.
Sometimes explaining why you are not covering a story is just as helpful for your users as explaining why you are covering one. KCRG did just that when users asked them why they were not covering all school threats happening in the community. They decided to write an explainer story on their website explaining when and why they will cover school threats and also when they will not. The policy was one that was known inside the newsroom but it was the first time they were making their policy public.
Sometimes explaining why you are not covering a story is just as helpful for your users as explaining why you are covering one. KCRG did just that when users asked them why they were not covering all school threats happening in the community. They decided to write an explainer story on their website explaining when and why they will cover school threats and also when they will not. The policy was one that was known inside the newsroom but it was the first time they were making their policy public.
When a suicide occurred on campus, Annenberg Media staff were torn on whether or not they should report on the incident. As they debated their options and talked about the legal issues internally, they also decided to share their thought process and reporting process with their users. Several of the reporters and news managers/professors were interviewed about why they covered the suicide. In the video, posted to Instagram and YouTube, the journalists discussed their policy when it comes to covering suicides and also linked to mental health resources available for those in need.
When a suicide occurred on campus, Annenberg Media staff were torn on whether or not they should report on the incident. As they debated their options and talked about the legal issues internally, they also decided to share their thought process and reporting process with their users. Several of the reporters and news managers/professors were interviewed about why they covered the suicide. In the video, posted to Instagram and YouTube, the journalists discussed their policy when it comes to covering suicides and also linked to mental health resources available for those in need.
Annenberg Media realized it was in need of a corrections policy. In the process of creating one, they also took a look at their ethics policy and decided to share it with the public. In addition to making the policy public, they built it in a way that could be searched by keywords. They also wrote it in a way that non-journalists could understand. They did not include any industry jargon and tried to think as a user when categorizing and building the webpage.
Annenberg Media realized it was in need of a corrections policy. In the process of creating one, they also took a look at their ethics policy and decided to share it with the public. In addition to making the policy public, they built it in a way that could be searched by keywords. They also wrote it in a way that non-journalists could understand. They did not include any industry jargon and tried to think like a user when categorizing and building the webpage.
WITF decided to share their ethics policy and explain how it impacts their news decisions. In the post, on their webiste, the newsroom discussed how, when and why it may use anonymous sources, how it handles corrections, how it handles story selection and more.
WITF decided to share their ethics policy and explain how it impacts their news decisions. In the post, on their website, the newsroom discussed how, when and why it may use anonymous sources, how it handles corrections, how it handles story selection and more.
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.
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 a commenter on Facebook was critical of language included in a story, the Enid staff responded directly and explained why the information was included. For this particular story, the information was coming directly from an affidavit so the journalist explained that it was official information from a court document and that is why they decided to include it in their story.
When a commenter on Facebook was critical of language included in a story, the Enid staff responded directly and explained why the information was included. For this particular story, the information was coming directly from an affidavit so the journalist explained that it was official information from a court document and that is why they decided to include it in their story.
The Virginian-Pilot wrote a story explaining the difference between news, opinion and analysis in their paper. The discussed how they define each title and how users can tell them apart.
The Virginian-Pilot wrote a story explaining the difference between news, opinion and analysis in their paper. The discussed how they define each title and how users can tell them apart.
The Virginian-Pilot wrote a story explaining how it writes headlines. The piece discussed how digital and print headlines may be different sometimes and explaining their approach to subject.
The Virginian-Pilot wrote a story explaining how it writes headlines. The piece discussed how digital and print headlines may be different sometimes and explaining their approach to subject.
The Virginian-Pilot wrote a story explaining how their "letters to the editor" section works. It talked about how stories are selected and who is in charge of selecting the stories. The explanation post was also published in print.
The Virginian-Pilot wrote a story explaining how their “letters to the editor” section works. It talked about how stories are selected and who is in charge of selecting the stories. The explanation post was also published in print.
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.
As journalists, we sometimes forget that words in our daily vocabulary might not be familiar to readers. The Virginian-Pilot created a plain-language glossary, explaining terms like wire, editorial, exclusive, and more. Having this reference can come in handy when readers have questions, like whether "analysis" is news or opinion.
As journalists, we sometimes forget that words in our daily vocabulary might not be familiar to readers. The Virginian-Pilot created a plain-language glossary, explaining terms like wire, editorial, exclusive, and more. Having this reference can come in handy when readers have questions, like whether “analysis” is news or opinion.
WCNC does not normally air the raw footage of officer involved shootings but after reviewing the body camera footage and discussing it internally, they decided to air portions of video from obtained from local police. Since this was something their users may not be used to seeing, they wrote a story on their website about their decision to air the video and how they came to their decision.
WCNC does not normally air the raw footage of officer-involved shootings but after reviewing the body camera footage and discussing it internally, they decided to air portions of video from obtained from local police. Since this was something their users may not be used to seeing, they wrote a story on their website about their decision to air the video and how they came to their decision.
Newsy Native Americans
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.