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.
While reporting on a controversial police killing of an unarmed black man, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution included a note explaining their approach to covering the story: “Given the intense public interest in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe and how this incident may factor into policy changes and decisions on policing, the AJC has committed to providing the fullest, most complete coverage possible. That includes looking at the actions and backgrounds of both Rolfe and Brooks and how those may have shaped their encounter on Friday night … We will publish more information as soon as we can evaluate what is accurate and relevant, and give the material context, as is our usual practice.”
While reporting on a controversial police killing of an unarmed black man, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution included a note explaining their approach to covering the story: “Given the intense public interest in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe and how this incident may factor into policy changes and decisions on policing, the AJC has committed to providing the fullest, most complete coverage possible. That includes looking at the actions and backgrounds of both Rolfe and Brooks and how those may have shaped their encounter on Friday night … We will publish more information as soon as we can evaluate what is accurate and relevant, and give the material context, as is our usual practice.”
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.
In a breaking news story, KPRC 2 in Houston included a note in their story that mentioned the station’s approach to handling police chases. The station explained they often included a 4-5 second delay while live streaming police chases so “producers can catch anything violent or inappropriate before our audience might see it. Also, this helps our producers make a decision about whether to broadcast this sort of material.”
WCPO decided their newsroom would severely limit the number of crime mugshots it used on its website. Director Mike Canan wrote a column explaining the change, specifically addressing how mugshots often disproportionately represented people of color and people with mental health issues while rarely added to the value of the actual reporting. The station also explicitly listed its new protocol for how it would use mugshots, inviting its audience to hold them accountable to their own standards. “We think it is ethical and responsible without harming our commitment to accurate journalism,” Canan wrote.
When 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.”
Saphara Harrell at the Salem Reporter wrote a first-person column about how she covered a shooting inside an Oregon Goodwill. In the column, she pulls back the curtain on her reporting by taking readers through her step-by-step process, including explaining coverage conversations she had with her editor, which public records she obtained and how she verified information from sources. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
In breaking news situations, we all know that the information we are reporting is the most accurate and best information we have at that moment. But, have we helped our audience navigate fast-changing information? At Trusting News, we have shared with you how some newsrooms try to make this point clear in their reporting. While covering COVID-19, probably the biggest breaking news story of our time, we should all be working to make sure our users are alerted to this fact. We should also be working to help them understand why this is the case. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
After facing accusations that a photojournalist altered a photo that showed a closed beach packed with people during the coronavirus pandemic, the Caller-Times wrote a column exculpating the photo. “We often face criticism and recognize people are entitled to opinions about what and how we cover the news. It comes with the territory. It also doesn’t change the facts. That’s why we typically let it roll on by and focus on what’s important: informing our community,” editor Mary Ann Cavazos Beckett wrote. “But when several people continued to spread false information about how and when the beach photo was taken it became concerning.” Beckett also explained and linked to the paper’s ethics policy and mission statement, reminding their audience of the paper’s commitment to accuracy and the community.
The NYTimes added an editor’s note to the top of the story about parenting during the coronavirus pandemic to explain how the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might change. “As coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, we’re working to answer the questions on many parents’ minds. This is a fast-moving situation, so some information may be outdated,” the note read. “For the latest updates, read The New York Times’s live coronavirus coverage here.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
NPR included a disclaimer on a breaking news story that reminded their audience it was an ongoing story and that some information may change as the situation unfolded. “This is a developing story. Some things that get reported by the media will later turn out to be wrong,” the note read. “We will focus on reports from police officials and other authorities, credible news outlets and reporters who are at the scene. We will update as the situation develops.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
WEWS in Cleveland posted a column sharing why the station was focusing so much of its coverage on the coronavirus spread and addressed accusations from readers that they were stoking panic and fear in the community. “Balancing our coronavirus coverage in a way that attempts to reflect reality is something we’ve been discussing over here a lot. We’re quite aware that there’s a way to report this story that makes it sound like the world is coming to an end,” Digital Director Joe Donatelli wrote. “Our focus right now is on reporting the overall impact, government management and the human element of this public health threat in a manner that raises public awareness.” The post also discussed how social media algorithms can impact the type of news content you see in your social feeds. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.

 

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.
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.
Screenshot from the comments on a post The Coloradoan made on Facebook, explaining how the news organization handles breaking news updates.
After posting news of a decision in a court case, the Coloradoan received criticism for the lack of information in the story from a Facebook commenter. The news organization responded to the user and explained that this was a breaking news story and they would be updating the story as they confirm details and receive more information.
Screenshot from 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.
After receiving a 911 audio tape close to air time WUSA found itself in a situation where it had to turn a story quickly. Like many breaking news situations, this means, information may come out in pieces and not all in one concise story. To explain this, WUSA let the user in on their reporting process by adding the following language on-air: "We have about a half-hour of 9-1-1 audio that our team is going through, right now -- If there's anything else in there that's important to pass along -- we'll have it for you tomorrow morning, on Wake up Washington."
After receiving a 911 audio tape close to air time WUSA found itself in a situation where it had to turn a story quickly. Like many breaking news situations, this means, information may come out in pieces and not all in one concise story. To explain this, WUSA let the user in on their reporting process by adding the following language on-air: “We have about a half-hour of 9-1-1 audio that our team is going through, right now — If there’s anything else in there that’s important to pass along — we’ll have it for you tomorrow morning, on Wake up Washington.”
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.
Over the course of a week--from the first report of a death of a law enforcement officer, to his memorial service--WITF wrestled with several difficult coverage decisions. Should they report information they confidently knew through informal connections, or wait for official announcements? Should journalists attend the service as members of the public? The editor, who was a friend of one of the people involved, offered a very open, first-person account of how the newsroom approached the highly sensitive story. He writes: "It's important to remember the people we cover are more than just the role they play in a story."
Over the course of a week–from the first report of a death of a law enforcement officer, to his memorial service–WITF wrestled with several difficult coverage decisions. Should they report information they confidently knew through informal connections, or wait for official announcements? Should journalists attend the service as members of the public? The editor, who was a friend of one of the people involved, offered a very open, first-person account of how the newsroom approached the highly sensitive story. He writes: “It’s important to remember the people we cover are more than just the role they play in a story.”
Some audience members assume that journalists will broadcast whatever they hear--or whatever will drum up the most controversy. Inviting them into your editing process can reassure them of your credibility. WITF did just that when it received possibly explosive information. Rather than running with it as a breaking news story, they took a month to vet all the facts, A post from the editor explained their commitment to producing a deeply reported, independent analysis of the issue.
Some audience members assume that journalists will broadcast whatever they hear–or whatever will drum up the most controversy. Inviting them into your editing process can reassure them of your credibility. WITF did just that when it received possibly explosive information. Rather than running with it as a breaking news story, they took a month to vet all the facts, A post from the editor explained their commitment to producing a deeply reported, independent analysis of the issue.
Breaking news stories can lead to many questions from your audience--especially if early information turns out to be inaccurate. WITF proactively added an editor's note to reassure readers that "we'll only point to the best information we have at the time" and that any errors would be quickly corrected.
Breaking news stories can lead to many questions from your audience–especially if early information turns out to be inaccurate. WITF proactively added an editor’s note to reassure readers that “we’ll only point to the best information we have at the time” and that any errors would be quickly corrected.