No one is expecting things to be “normal” for the remainder of 2020, and the upcoming election is no exception. As I talk to friends and family, they have a lot of anxiety and concerns ahead of Election Day due to all the unknowns surrounding it. And it makes sense — this election looks very different from previous elections. As journalists, we obviously can’t quell all unknowns. (Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have some future vision, though?) But what we can do is help manage our audience’s expectations for election night and beyond. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
While covering recent COVID-19 numbers in their community, the News Tribune posted that the local health department “caved” in releasing numbers related to coronavirus spread. When one of the commenters pointed out that the language sounded biased, editor Gary Castor took the time to respond on Facebook, publically acknowledging it might not have been the best wording: “You are absolutely correct; it was a poor choice of words. I did not see the post before it was sent to Facebook, but after seeing it in my feed, I asked that the verb be changed. The story has since been changed to say the department relented to the repeated requests of the city.”
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.
In order to make voting information easily accessible for readers, the Fulcrum created a voter FAQ that had information about how to make sure voter registration is up-to-date, how to find polling places and what voting rights the public has.
FiveThirtyEight included a disclaimer alongside an election poll they ran to clarity that while polls can be helpful benchmark ahead of the election, it can’t possibly predict the outcome of any election. “Before we proceed further, one disclaimer about the scope of the model: It seeks to reflect the vote as cast on Election Day, assuming that there are reasonable efforts to allow eligible citizens to vote and to count all legal ballots, and that electors are awarded to the popular-vote winner in each state. It does not account for the possibility of extraconstitutional shenanigans by Trump or by anyone else, such as trying to prevent mail ballots from being counted,” the disclaimer read.
Colorado Public Radio wrote a column about how the newsroom planned to cover the 2020 election. The post starts off strong by addressing the perception that news has an institutional bias. “At CPR News, our mission is to serve all Coloradans, not a partisan sliver. As the election approaches, we wanted to explain more thoroughly what we’re doing to earn your trust every day.” It then lists the questions it will address and links to each, which accomplishes two things: It lets readers on the page skip to a section they’re interested in and it lets the staff use the links to answer specific questions as they come up in stories and social posts.
The News Tribune included an editor’s note at the top of their coverage that stated the newsroom’s mission with their elections content, where to see all the election content, and how to contact the newsroom. “The News Tribune reports on elections to equip community members with the tools they need to participate in democracy. That includes sharing candidates’ positions on important issues and making information about the voting process accessible,” the note reads.
PEN America wrote a guide for how to talk to friends and family who share misinformation, including how to verify information and avoid escalation on social media. “While some people create and spread disinformation—false information shared with the intent to deceive others—your friends and family may well spread misinformation, which is shared by people who may not know the information is false. They probably think the content is true, and they may feel they’re sharing something important. That can make it tough to know how to confront them. Here are a few suggestions.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Green Bay Press Gazette wrote a story detailing it’s “Letters to the Editor” process ahead of the 2020 Election. In the guidelines, the newsroom states it’s purpose with publishing political letters earlier in the year than they normally would: “We will publish letters to the editor related to local, state and national campaigns. With many citizens voting early, we want the conversation to begin sooner than normal.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
With much of the public overwhelmed by news in 2020, it’s important to provide information in accessible ways. Here’s an example of how the Wisconsin Green Bay Press Gazette did that. The newsroom created a voter guide that had all voting and election information in one story that was easy to navigate. In the guide, the newsroom links to voter registration information, endorsements, and previous coverage of candidates and ballot issues. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Themes:

Newsroom:
WCPO created an Elections Guide that contained all the basic election information in one place, including how to request a mail-in ballot, how to register to vote, and key dates to know ahead of the election. By providing easy-to-find answers to basic election questions, you can build trust with your users and maybe even pick up new ones.
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.
How do you decide what to cover? How do you work to be fair? What sources do you trust? When it comes to elections coverage, the kind of transparency we advocate for is especially important. You’re working (really hard, we imagine) to provide a public service and contribute to a healthy democracy, and your audience should know that. Take some inspiration from this FAQ that Colorado Public Radio put together about election coverage. We’ll share some highlights here, but the whole thing is recommended reading. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Many of you probably get accused of having a liberal bias — of publishing more “negative” content about conservative politicians and of reporting more favorably on progressive ideas and candidates. I’m guessing you probably want your audience to know you work hard to be fair. And I am guessing you stand behind your coverage. If so, where’s your evidence? Remember, it’s reasonable for news consumers to be frustrated by partisan information, overwhelmed with choices and confused about what news to trust. It’s laudable for them to ask you to provide evidence of your credibility. Their skepticism and caution are appropriate. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Political polls are a lot to navigate: There are new ones continually. They seem to contradict each other. It’s hard to know which ones to trust, or if we should even bother paying attention. As journalists, we learn how much credence to give polls. We learn to look for independence in the pollsters (financial and political). We inspect their methodology. But are you explaining any of that? Doing so could build trust in your methods and can also help your audience be more educated consumers of polling data. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
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.”
Themes:
When an NPR interview didn’t go far enough to hold a public official accountable who was spreading false information about elections, NPR was transparent and admitted its shortcomings, running a column from standards editor Kelly McBridge about how the station could have done a better job providing context for readers. “Examining this particular segment of this particular interview, gives us a chance to hone our practices. Audience trust presumes we will not air blatant falsehoods. It’s an ongoing exercise to identify and sharpen the skills and tools necessary to place false information into a truthful context,” McBride wrote. 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.”
Consuming news has felt especially challenging these days. Not only are the news events themselves hard to digest, but we’re also at a level of total information overload. Mix that with widely shared conspiracy theories and politicized public health information and you get a confusing and overwhelming output of news circulating on social media feeds. And man, sometimes it can be really hard to tell which of that content is real, agenda-driven or altogether untrue. Even as a trained journalist and a self-described skeptic, I’ve been duped by seemingly credible articles shared by friends or family, or doctored screenshots of the president’s tweets that at first glance were really believable. So think about how frustrating it must be for folks who are trying to get good, accurate information about their communities but don’t have the knowledge or training to decipher what’s credible information and what’s not? And how can we expect that same audience to trust the news we’re producing when there is indeed bad information out there that shouldn’t be trusted? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
How do you describe conspiracy theories like QAnon to your audience? How about candidates for office who amplify or adhere to those theories? This is tricky territory for journalists. As the American Press Institute’s Susan Benkelman wrote last week: If you are in the business of trying to publish what’s true, how do you treat things that are untrue without amplifying them? When is the right time to write about them and what is the right way to describe them accurately? How do you decide which ones are not worth debunking and which are? In an age of social media, how do you do all this without inadvertently encouraging the spread of falsehoods? Benkelman’s piece is full of concrete advice and example language to use when making coverage decisions about dangerous, false messages. (As a reminder, Trusting News is a project of both API and the Reynolds Journalism Institute.) The piece also links to a running list of congressional candidates who have embraced QAnon’s messaging, sorted by state. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
We talk about how elections work all the time in our reporting, but do you ever notice how a lot of those explanations are often woven into the middle of stories? They’re sandwiched between good quotes and are part of a larger tale we’re telling. That’s not always bad, of course. A good story that has characters and is engaging can grab people’s attention and keep them reading or watching or listening. But, does it help them understand the topic we are covering in the best way? While trying to tell a story, are we providing them with the basic definitions and explanations they need to really understand the story in the first place? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
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.
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.”
Community Impact Newspaper reporter Emma Freer wrote a column explaining to readers the paper’s coverage process when it comes to reporting on new businesses opening, closing and relocating in the community. The column explains the ways they find out about businesses opening or closing, how they confirm the information and what goes into publishing the story. Oftentimes, audiences also assume that money is involved in the coverage of local businesses. To level up, the organization could’ve also set the record straight by stating that money is not a factor when making these decisions. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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.

 

After facing accusations that a photojournalist altered a photo that showed a crowded bridge in Florida after the SpaceX launch during the coronavirus pandemic, Florida Today wrote a column explaining it wasn’t a fake or old image. In the column they gave details as to how the photographer captured the image, even mentioning that the kind of camera and lense used wouldn’t have compressed the image. “As journalists, we’re big believers in asking questions and seeking to verify information,” editor Mara Bellaby wrote. “But it’s one thing to inquire and quite another to declare ‘Fake News’ and ignore all evidence to the contrary. Evidence like people wearing masks in the photo, other cell phone images shared that showed a similar scene and, finally, common sense.”
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.
Josie Hollingsworth, the engagement editor for Politifact, created a video that explained to users how the organization decides what to fact-check. Hollingsworth said people frequently ask the Politifact team how they pick which claims to fact check, so now going forward, their team can quickly link to the video whenever the question comes up.
During an on-air broadcast, WCPO News Director Mike Canan responded to a few complaints that said the station replayed the video footage of George Floyd’s being killed under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer too many times. “We generally avoid sharing the last moments of people’s lives. In the instance we would use it, it is to establish a key moment … You can make that point by sharing that video one time, not four times,” Canan said.
Journalists are human, which means we sometimes make mistakes. But it’s up to us to own up to those mistakes and ask the audience to help hold us accountable to doing better in the future. This is exactly what the Philadelphia inquirer did after they wrote a headline that suggested an equivalence between the loss of buildings and the lives of Black Americans. In a column addressing the issue, editors at the paper called the headline unacceptable and shared how the paper’s editing and headline writing process had been working, and how they were adjusting it in order to avoid similar situations in the future. “In addition to our readers and the Philadelphia community, we apologize to the many employees of the Philadelphia Inquirer, whose work selling advertising, printing the paper and developing Inquirer.com enables our journalism,” the editors wrote. “We hear you and will continue to listen as we work to improve.” 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.”
WJXT4 anchor Vic Micolucci used Facebook to explain the station’s approach to local coverage. In the post, he reminded users that he’s a part of the Jacksonville community, he’s committed to sharing the most accurate, up-to-date information and he doesn’t like to see the local community hurting. “I don’t hate police officers. Or protesters. I’m friends with people on both sides of the line. Every person is different. I don’t want small businesses to fail or people to lose their jobs. I don’t want people to get sick. I don’t want unrest,” Micolucci wrote. “I WANT to share good news. And I do. The 9am show I anchor has a lot of positive stories daily. However, as a journalist, I have to report on crisis, concerns and controversy. If I don’t, who will?” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Journalists like certainty. They like to ask questions and provide answers. But what should they do about the questions they can’t get answers to — either because the information isn’t available or because the questions are unanswerable? A common practice is to address what is known and leave out what is unknown. But that’s not always the best option when it comes to building trust. We know that when news consumers don’t understand the choices journalists make, the conclusions they reach are often not flattering ones. They’re not giving us the benefit of the doubt. Instead, they sometimes assume an agenda that involves highlighting some facts or story angles and purposefully suppressing others. Think about all the times you see comments like, “of course they won’t tell us that part of the story …” or “they must not want us to know …” By being upfront about things that aren’t yet known, journalists can remove some of that speculation and assure their audiences they’re continuing to ask the important questions. This is especially important when covering big, controversial stories — like elections, public health crises and protests. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.

 

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.”
Part of being a trusted news source is reliably providing the information people most need. That might seem obvious to say, but it’s worth reflecting on these days. Many people are feeling an enormous level of confusion when making basic decisions and are struggling to understand the state of the world. They are balancing national news coverage with what they see in their own communities and wading through conflicting and contradicting versions of reality. As journalists, we can’t always share facts that bring clarity. Sometimes, our reporting reveals just how much isn’t known. But we can demonstrate that we are paying focused, prolonged attention to the questions that matter most. We can organize our pandemic coverage around ways to shed light on what is known and not known about the status of COVID-19 in your coverage area. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here. 
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.
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.
Most of us have probably been told that we are one-sided in our coverage. It’s a common complaint, and it can be a tough one to reply to. Especially when it comes to political coverage, we try hard to be fair. Yet those efforts often go unnoticed. The interesting thing is that when we consider what balanced coverage looks like, we are often thinking about it over time. We think about how we interviewed the family of the victim shot last week. So, if we talk to gun rights activists today, we do not necessarily need to hear from gun violence victims again in the same story. But, for the user, who most likely did not see the story from last week, but did see today’s, they may think we are siding with the gun rights activists because they are not hearing from all sides in one story. Despite the steps we take to produce responsible, ethical journalism every day, we’re often not getting credit for those efforts. We don’t draw enough ties between our entire body of coverage. We don’t point out the consistency in our approach, the thoughtfulness behind our decisions or the pains we take to represent multiple sides of an issue fairly. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here. 
At the beginning of Georgia’s Legislative session, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote an article explaining how they were planning on covering the legislature. In the story, they clearly state why it’s important to dedicate so many newsroom resources to the coverage, and also explained why they would be focusing more Republican initiatives. “Both chambers of the Legislature are controlled by Republicans, and the governor and other statewide leaders are also Republicans. That means that issues and bills they push have a far greater chance of becoming law,” the article reads. “As a result, we typically write more stories examining and vetting Republican initiatives than we do bills sponsored by Democrats if they have little chance of passing. When Democrats controlled the Legislature before 2003, the reverse was true.”
In order to improve transparency, The Guardian introduced a policy to signpost older news articles to ensure it was clear to readers when they were reading content from previous years. “Trust is integral in responsible journalism and we take our responsibilities incredibly seriously,” the story states. “It’s not possible to control every action on every platform in the digital world but we believe these steps will make it increasingly difficult for bad actors to use our journalism to the wrong ends and will help everyday readers get clear context around our articles, regardless of when it was published.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
It’s not uncommon for the public to not understand how or why newspapers make political endorsements. The editorial board at the Tennessean tried to explain this by sharing a bit about its fact-gathering and decision-making process in an endorsement supporting a city-wide transportation plan. “After weighing multiple arguments, sponsoring a debate, reading the 55-page plan, holding eight meetings with diverse stakeholders and attending multiple forums, The Tennessean Editorial Board recommends that Metro Nashville voters approve the plan,” the article read.
Do your readers understand how and why you use national reporting from wire services like the Associated Press? During an AMA on WCPO’s Facebook page with their editor Mike Canan, a commenter was making accusations that the paper didn’t have original reporting and was not fact-checking national stories. Canan responded, explaining the station’s policy for using wire stories: “We fact check local stories. We rely on news partners like the AP for national and international stories. We have an entire team of hard-working, real journalists. Our job is to cover the local news. So we focus our journalists on those tasks and rely on our news partners for coverage that is outside of our area.”
At the beginning of Georgia’s Legislative session, the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote an article explaining how they were planning on covering the legislature. In the story, they clearly state why it’s important to dedicate so many newsroom resources to the coverage, and also explained why they would be focusing more Republican initiatives. “Both chambers of the Legislature are controlled by Republicans, and the governor and other statewide leaders are also Republicans. That means that issues and bills they push have a far greater chance of becoming law,” the article reads. “As a result, we typically write more stories examining and vetting Republican initiatives than we do bills sponsored by Democrats if they have little chance of passing. When Democrats controlled the Legislature before 2003, the reverse was true.”
While reporting on the House impeachment vote again President Trump, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution included a box on the front page of its print paper that clearly stated how they were striving to provide fair coverage. “To ensure our impeachment coverage continues to be balanced, we used the same format on the front page and on A7 for the Senate vote as we did the House vote on Dec. 18,” the box read.
As journalists, we interact with a lot of people in our community. What if, after each of those interactions, the person walked away with something tangible that invited them to get to know the newsroom better? The Herald & Review did this by creating a handout about their newsroom titled “4 ways you can help the Herald & Review cover your community.” The handout was simple and easy to digest but included a lot of good information, including how users could share feedback, support the paper, join the conversation themselves, or meet the journalists in person. The bottom of the handout also included direct contact information for the editor in chief, along with a photo, helping make the journalists in the newsroom feel accessible and human.
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.
When publishing a story about a deadly accident that occurred 40 years ago, the Tampa Bay Times included a box that explained why the paper was reporting on a historical incident and how the story was reported. “The Sunshine Skyway disaster remains one of Florida’s most tragic accidents. To commemorate the 40-year anniversary, we wanted to tell the story of two men who received little recognition for their efforts. The information in this story was gathered over four months, involving multiple interviews,” the box read.
Consuming news can be overwhelming, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak when there seems to be an almost constant stream of updates from various different media outlets. The Philadelphia Inquirer addressed this directly by publishing an article about how the public can be smarter about finding trustworthy news during the pandemic. It included information from media literacy experts, a list of resources for sorting through potentially false or misleading news and strategies to help their users become smarter news consumers. “During a crisis, especially one that affects our lives and livelihoods, it makes sense that we want to know everything. But the quality of information is more important than the quantity,” the article reminded readers. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.

 

When faced with major advertising dollars lost during the coronavirus pandemic, journalists at The Day decided they needed to be direct with their audience and explain their bottom line. The newsroom ended up implementing multiple new strategies to share their mission and need for support from their community, which included additional subscription asks when they made COVID-19 stories free and personalized video pleas from reporters. Here’s what multimedia director Peter Huoppi had to say: “We knew the coronavirus was going to affect our company, but we didn’t realize how quickly things would change and how profound the effects would be. As the weeks went by, we realized we had to step outside of our comfort zone and talk more directly about our bottom line … It’s resulted in more money and reader subscriptions, which will allow us to continue to report on important issues and keep people informed.”
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.”
San Francisco Chronicle columnist John King included a box in one of his stories that helped explain the function of columns and how the reporting process worked. “Like the news articles that The Chronicle publishes, our columns seek to be thoroughly reported, using interviews and data to back up the writer’s observations. But columns allow writers to offer readers their own perspective on the issues they’re examining,” the box read. “John King’s columns on urban design and architecture are drawn from his exploration of the Bay Area landscape as well as research into projects; interviews with planners, designers and residents; and on-site visits.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer used Twitter to highlight some of their best journalism and show the breadth and depth of their work. They tied it to World Press Day and had individual reporters and editors share the work they were most proud of.
Consuming the news is an overwhelming experience. I realize that it feels like we could have said that every day since the 2016 election season, but with coronavirus added to the mix, there is legitimately a lot to know. It’s also true that paying continual attention to breaking news alerts is exhausting. A recent Pew Research Center study found that 71 percent of Americans say they need to take breaks from COVID-19 news, and 43 percent say keeping up with the news makes them feel worse emotionally. We’re also headed into a season of potentially less dramatic coronavirus updates, with new cases and deaths slowing. And as people head into summer (and the temptation to take a break from reality), the tendency to check out from news updates could be high. It’s possible, of course, to find a middle ground — one that helps us stay informed without being consumed by and alarmed by repetitive updates. We can help our communities do that. Journalists can offer a path through the news that avoids both extremes. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here. 
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.
The Spokesman-Review took two full pages in the print paper to help give readers a better understanding of how news works. The first, “Newspapers 101,” explained the difference between a newspaper story, an editorial and a column, and how they appear differently in the Review’s daily paper. The second is a brief history of “fake news” and gave readers some basic tools for determining the credibility of news reports. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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 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 publishing an investigative story about how certain businesses were getting tax breaks from the city, the Malheur Enterprise publisher and editor Les Zaitz wrote a column giving readers a step-by-step look at how journalist Pat Caldwell reported the story. Zaitz included information like how the reporter followed up with sources, how he verified information and how he obtained public records. “By sharing the background of how this story evolved, I hope you’ll understand the great care taken to be fair, to get the facts, and tell you something important about your local government,” Zaitz wrote. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Publisher and editor of the Malheur Enterprise Les Zaitz used research about the diminishing levels of public trust in media to remind readers of the organization’s mission and commitment to fact-based, trustworthy reporting. “The Enterprise operates on principles the staff lives by daily. We make those principles public. We are driven to earn and keep your trust. We are determined to scrub even the appearance of bias out of our reports. We are determined to always serve the citizen, not favor those in power – or fear them,” Zaitz writes. “As journalists, we will do all we can to earn your trust. At the same time, consider giving that trust-based not on general perceptions of the media but on our performance.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.

 

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.
After receiving some negative feedback about a story covering a controversial political meme, PA Post editor Russ Walker directly addressed the community concerns in a column. In the post, Walker reminded users of the newsroom’s mission and commitment to providing balanced election coverage of both parties while also explaining why the paper decided to cover this story in the first place. “The staff at PA Post knows we are heading into a contentious election year. While our focus is on covering policy and how government actions affect Pennsylvania citizens, we’ll also be watching the messages and campaign tactics of both parties. How campaigns are waged can tell us — the voters — a lot about how a candidate or party will govern,” Walker wrote. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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.
The Toronto Star updated the newsroom’s online glossary to include labels that clearly distinguish news reporting from paid or sponsored content. “The Star is committed to the principle that our audiences should not be confused about the distinction between our journalism – news and editorial content – and our advertising and other paid content,” the glossary 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.
The Colorado Sun included Civil Credibility Indicators on its website to be more transparent about its reporting process. In this specific story, the indicators let readers know there was original and in-person reporting, and that all sources quotes in the story were fact-checked and deemed as credible. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
In partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network, the Atlantic-Journal constitution shifted the focus of its editorial pages to be more solutions-based during the coronavirus outbreak. Managing editor Mark Waligore explained the change in a column, saying that with politics becoming more polarized, the paper wanted to shift its focus on solving community problems during the pandemic. “Given all that has happened, we believe the changes we’ve made to the Opinion pages are the right approach at the right time,” Waligore wrote. “We hope they can serve as a gathering spot, of sorts. A place to share your personal stories. A place to swap ideas and look for answers. A place that brings us together, rather than divides us.”
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.
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.
The Toronto Star includes a “trust ribbon” at the bottom of their stories that allow readers to either submit an error or click through to read the Star’s ethics code. By including this, the paper shows it is committed to accuracy and being transparent. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Toronto Star shares daily corrections published in the print paper on Twitter. By doing this, the newsroom shows they care about accuracy and setting the record straight. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Toronto Star updated how it displayed its opinion content in order to help readers distinguish opinion stories from news. The changes included clearer labels as well as a glossary that defined the different types of analysis and columns their audience would see in their editorial pages. “We are trying to help be a place that can help cut through the confusion and inaccuracies,” Star editor Irene Gentle wrote. 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.
NPR changed it’s online design in its opinion section so that it was easier for users to spot what was news content and what was opinion content. The changes included using more straightforward language to describe the different kinds of opinion content and placing the author’s credentials in a more prominent position. “NPR does not have a separate place for opinion pieces (unlike newspapers, say, which segregate such content on the editorial pages), so it’s particularly important that such content is obvious to readers when it appears on the NPR home page or on a mobile app or in a social media feed,” a column explaining the change read. 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 Philadelphia Inquirer redesigned its opinion pages in the paper so that it was easier for their audience to read and understand the difference between news and opinion content. The changes included a glossary that explained the difference between editorials, op-eds and columns, as well as updated labels that helped clarify for readers which stories were news, and which ones were opinion. 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.
With COVID-19 consuming daily life, it could seem strange to see a non-pandemic related investigation published by a news organization. NPR addressed this situation directly when publishing an investigation into recycling. They adding an editor’s note at the top of the story that read, “NPR will be publishing stories from this investigative series in the weeks ahead, even as we focus our current coverage on the coronavirus pandemic. But here’s a look at some of our key findings. You can watch the full documentary film from this investigation on the PBS series Frontline.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
Buzzfeed used an editor’s note at the top of their stories related to the coronavirus pandemic to remind their readers of their mission of providing trustworthy news. They also used the opportunity to ask users for their audience’s financial support. “The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus,” the note read. “To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.

 

Several things are true at this strange moment. Our lives feel upside down. People are worried about their health and have a heightened desire to stay informed. The economy is in turmoil. Journalists are stressed and pressed for time (or furloughed or laid off). The financial part of the news business is in a weakened state just when people need journalism most. All of this happening in an information landscape that is complicated and full of pitfalls for both news consumers and journalists. People are skeptical of journalism — sometimes for fair reasons and sometimes based on misassumptions and ignorance about how journalism operates. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
The editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution Kevin Riley wrote a column explaining how the news organization’s coverage had changed since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. “This situation has inspired some important changes at the AJC. I hope you’ve noticed those in the newspaper and at our website. And we, like so many of you, have had to change the way we work.” They highlighted their mission statement, pointed out how their print paper has changed to include more puzzles, a coloring page and a guide to help readers make the most of their time at home.
Both the editor and publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote a column sharing their approach of how the newsroom would be covering the coronavirus pandemic. The columns explained how jobs were changing and adapting to keep employees safe, and reminded the audience of their commitment to fact-based reporting. “A big part of our job during these uncertain times is to provide you with useful and accurate information so that you can reduce your risk and protect others. We hope to arm you with fact-based information so that you can best protect yourselves and those around you.”
At the bottom of a story related to the coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian included an editor’s note about how they are covering the virus outbreak. In the note, they explained their mission and commitment to factual, accurate reporting. “We have upheld our editorial independence in the face of the disintegration of traditional media – with social platforms giving rise to misinformation, the seemingly unstoppable rise of big tech and independent voices being squashed by commercial ownership,” the note read. “Our journalism is free from commercial and political bias – never influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This makes us different. It means we can challenge the powerful without fear and give a voice to those less heard.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The editor of the Bozeman Chronicle Nick Ehli wrote a column explaining how economic changes during the coronavirus outbreak were impacting the paper’s bottom line. He explained in a transparent and straightforward tone that the paper had lost a significant amount of advertising money and how that was affecting the hours his reporters were able to work. “…out parent company, the Adams Publishing Group, this week ordered a top-to-bottom partial furlough for all of its employees. This means that — for the time being — our journalists will be working fewer hours than they were before. I’d like to tell you that you won’t notice any changes, that we will be able to cover our community with the same vigor you’ve hopefully come to expect, but that simply wouldn’t be true,” Ehli wrote. “Reporters and photographers working 30 hours a week instead of 40 will produce less content. There is no way around that fact.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
WPCO anchor Evan Millward produced an on-air story explaining how the station was adapting to producing news remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic. He went into detail describing how the different positions in the newsroom were modifying their jobs and let viewers know why some of their daily news segments might look different now that everyone was working from home. “It doesn’t matter if we’re working from our newsroom – or from our kitchen counter,” Millward wrote. “We live in and love Greater Cincinnati, too. We’ve been working for you for years – and no pandemic will stop that commitment.”
Food editor Ligaya Figueras at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote an article explaining how their food coverage would be changing amid the coronavirus outbreak. Figueras writes: “In this time of uncertainty, one thing is certain: We all still need to eat … The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s food and dining team is committed to keeping you as informed as possible so that you can feed your families safely, and enjoy your time together at the stove and table.” The column goes onto explain how the paper would be dropping restaurant reviews, shifting coverage to restaurants that are remaining open and highlighting recipes readers could cook from home.
In a story highlighting “fake news” about animals amid the coronavirus outbreak, National Geographic included an editor’s note that alerted readers to online tools they could use to help verify if photos are real or have been altered. “If a post seems too good to be true, check social media to see if anyone else has already debunked it,” the note read. By telling readers how to spot altered photos, they are establishing that they don’t support “fake” news and are actively trying to quell misinformation. This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
We all know how much information is out there right now because a lot of you are working around the clock to produce it. COVID-19 is a breaking news story that has continued and will continue for weeks and months. But just as you are working to produce credible stories that can help save lives, there are other people sharing links that are totally false or contain misinformation. You may think, what does the misinformation have to do with me and my journalism? What should you do about it? Well, you could ignore it (though at Trusting News we don’t recommend that and explain why here). But what if the misinformation is being shared in a Facebook group you manage, underneath a link you posted on social media or on comments on your news story? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
The Bangor Daily News in Maine used an editors note in a newsletter to share their reporting goals and mission during the coronavirus pandemic. The newsroom reminded the public that they didn’t want to cause panic, but instead, wanted to “gather facts, dispel myths and address your information needs,” the note read. “We will clearly detail what is known and not known about the virus, the illness it causes, and risks to Mainers. We seek answers to the questions that only a local news source can ask.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Columbus Dispatch shared their mission and dedication to accurate, fair reporting by adding an editor’s note at the top of their coverage related to the COVID-19 outbreak. “With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to give you the information you need. We want to keep things in context in order to help you make decisions,” the note read. “You can find all of our stories here. These are being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing…” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
WPCO in Cincinnati included an editor’s note at the top of their Coronavirus coverage that shared their mission and goals for reporting on this pandemic with their audience. “With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need,” the note read. “We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.”
In a community Facebook group run by the Coloradoan, the newsroom told users they would not be allowing posts that included speculation or misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. “We will be removing posts that are purely speculation regarding coronavirus,” the post read. “These unconfirmed bits of information can add to public panic and hysteria. We want folks to have confirmed, reliable information. If you have a news tip or are hearing something you’d like to share, send us a private message.” By moderating comments for misinformation, it shows your audience you’re committed to accuracy and getting the facts straight.
The Day in Connecticut made a video explaining why they were offering all their coronavirus coverage for free while reminding the audience of the need for their support. “While we’re providing free access to these articles, they are not free to produce,” the video stated. “The newsroom is working long hours to provide the news and information you need during this health emergency.” The video went on to include directions on how to subscribe to the paper, as well as explained some of the benefits of subscribing, like being able to access the daily E-Newspaper.
Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle Audrey Cooper wrote a column telling their audience that while their journalists and entire news operation were working remotely, they were still just as committed to providing accurate, timely news to the community. “It’s critical that we be there to make sure that you have the information you need to make decisions about what’s right for your family and for your community, ” Cooper wrote. “Whether we are recording podcasts from under a sound-dulling blanket fort (yes, I did that), conducting interviews in a child’s closet among stuffed animals (as reporter Matthias Gafni did), or updating the live updates story while batting away a persistent cat (thanks, Lauren Hernández), we will do everything we can to ensure we provide you with the news now and well after the crisis is over.”
The Coloradoan sent a newsletter to subscribers sharing their plan for how they were going to keep the community informed during the coronavirus pandemic. “This pandemic is a public health crisis the likes of which many of our journalists have never covered before,” content strategies Jennifer Hefty wrote. “We are learning as we go and trying our best to provide critical information without spreading panic.”
WCPO in Cinncinati shared part of their reporting process with their audience by adding a line in their on-air coverage about how they were using video shot by the restaurant because they could not go inside due to COVID-19. “We can’t bring you this story the traditional way we would,” the anchor said. “La Soupe has asked us to stay out of their kitchen for obvious reasons, but they did offer to shoot video of food prep themselves, and that’s what you’ll be seeing in this story.” The explanation flowed well with the story and did not disrupt the storytelling.
WCPO in Cinncinati wrote a column explaining how they were adjusting their programming so their journalists could practice safe social distancing. The column made clear how it would affect the work of their employees and the programming the audience would see. “Some of these changes might impact the quality of our newscasts or online news sources. They might not look as polished as they normally do, and we would always rather interview people in person,” the column read. “But we are willing to make these sacrifices because we feel strongly that we need to do our part to prevent the spread of the virus and to keep our employees healthy.”
WMAR-2 News in Baltimore wrote a story explaining how their programming would change to keep their newsroom and journalists safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. The station ended the column by asking for questions and news tips from the audience, saying: “We can’t do this without you. Please tell us what is going on in your community.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
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.

 

When NPR reporter David Folkenflik reported about job cuts and restructuring at the news organization, he included an editor’s note at the bottom that explained the newsroom’s process and how the company’s ownership did not have a say in influencing editorial content. The explained said: “This story was reported by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik and edited by deputy business editor Jennifer Liberto and chief business editor Pallavi Gogoi under the protocol for coverage of the network. No NPR News executives or corporate officials were able to review this report before it was posted publicly.” This work was done independently from Trusting News but embodies the work we do.
The Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times wrote an article explaining who they are, why they do what they do, and what the newsroom’s decision-making process is. The article included information like the newsroom’s mission, how the newsroom decides what to cover, how they use content from wire services, its process for handling corrections, as well as how the public can submit news tips. By putting all the information into one place they’ll be able to easily share the link when questions come up in the future.
Do you know what questions your audience has about your news organization? We bet if you looked at your comments, listened to user voicemails, or read through emails, you’d see a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about how you do what you do. Even if your audience is made up of super savvy news consumers, chances are they don’t always understand why you talked to one source and not another, why you follow up on some stories but not others, and even more basic … if you care about things like fairness and accuracy. We as journalists often forget that our processes are invisible to our audience unless we make them public. We say this often at Trusting News, but in the absence of explanations, our audiences typically make negative assumptions about our motives and processes. We saw this after a Trusting News partner organization recently conducted an audience survey. While the survey responses (from thousands of readers) revealed public misunderstandings and frustrations with the paper, they also shed light on how readers were genuinely curious about how the newsroom functions. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
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
It can feel like a luxury to pause and read a study about the news business. Who has the time? Yet researchers can tell us quite a bit about how news consumers behave, what makes them pay for news, what they want from news and what makes them trust and distrust journalism. For example: Nearly half of Americans — 44 percent — believe the press invents negative stories about the president, including 74 percent of Republicans. (Poynter Media Trust Survey 2017) Fewer than half of Americans (44%) say they can think of a news source that reports the news objectively. (Knight Foundation/Gallup, 2018) The majority of Americans think local news organizations are doing very well or somewhat well financially. But if the financial state is explained to them, they say they are more likely to support their local news organizations. (Knight Foundation/Gallup, 2019) Only 24% or Americans say they believe the news media in general is “moral.” But that number more than doubles (53%) when people are asked about the media they use most often. (API/AP-NORC, 2017) 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.”
To be more transparent about where opinion content comes from and who’s writing it, the editorial board at the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times put an editor’s note at the top of an opinion piece noting that the state representative was invited to write the piece, and explained why. “We invited Rep. Jeff Leach, author of Proposition 4, to write this column in response to a column by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. The CPPP, which also wrote at our invitation, opposes the proposition, as do we,” the board wrote.
It’s common these days for journalists to write a “behind the story” piece to accompany long projects. In these stories, an editor typically explains why a story was done, demonstrates how much work it took to produce, credits the staff and answers some anticipated reader questions. Those pieces are usually on a separate page from the main story and often only the most dedicated readers will click through. At Trusting News, we’re firm believers in taking advantage of attention where we already have it: in the story itself. In the spot in the story where you say a source wasn’t available for comment, you could explain how you tried to reach the person. When you introduce an expert source, you could include information about their independence and reliability. When part of a story led you to consult a conflict of interest policy, describe the situation and link to the policy. 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.
After internal conversations about being more responsive to readers on its website, The Day’s editorial page editor Paul Choiniere jumped into a comment thread to explain the paper’s coverage of a military event. He publicly responded to negative feedback shared in a letter to the editor, saying: “The Day will match its reporting on the military and on veterans with any newspaper in the country. It is extensive. But we cannot cover every event. … However, we respect the rights of our readers to offer their opinions, including, as in this case, in letters to the editor.” This newsroom is a Trusting News partner but this work was done independently from Trusting News.

 

Instead of leaving it up to the audience to make assumptions, the Michigan Daily used an editor’s note to explain why a story included anonymous sources. It defined what an anonymous source is, why the sources didn’t want to be identified and then linked to the newsroom’s ethics policy. “In accordance with our ethics policy (which can be found in full in our bylaws), the reporter of this article and two editors have seen the names and fraternity affiliations of our sources, as well as the evidence they provided The Daily,” the editor’s note read.
Science News created an FAQ page sharing how they report on science stories, explaining everything from their sourcing process to how they fact-check stories. “Our standards and processes are essential to what we do, and we believe they should be as transparent and accessible as the stories we publish,” the FAQ states. The top of the page also invites readers into the conversation by sharing how they can reach out with questions or suggestions.
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.
After receiving a letter from a reader who was critical of the paper’s national political coverage, Enid News & Eagle’s Editorial Board responded by explaining how and why it uses national content from The Associated Press. “We do pay for the right to publish content from The Associated Press, because we think it’s important to help you stay up to date on national and world news,” the board wrote.
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.”
It’s important to label content so your audience understands when they’re reading an opinion story versus a news story. The editorial board at the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller-Times did this by clearly labeling one of its editorials with the word “opinion.” The board also posted an explainer at the top of the editorial on how opinion content is different from traditional news coverage. “The conclusions and opinions here have been derived by our Editorial Board and are not associated with the news staff,” the board wrote.
When reporting on elections, sharing how you’re striving to provide fair and balanced coverage can be a powerful way to earn trust with your audience. Before President Trump made a campaign stop in Cincinnati, WPCO wrote an article explaining the station’s policy on covering candidates ahead of the 2020 election. The station was transparent about it’s guidelines and acknowledged how coverage would be different from past election cycles. “We know this is a controversial decision for some of our audience, but we wanted to let you know that we took great care in trying to make a fair decision for our community,” Senior Director Mike Canan wrote.

 

In an effort to start regaining trust with readers, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times started better labeling different types of content, including its opinion and watchdog stories. In this story, the staff defined what watchdog journalism is, along with the newsroom’s mission and motivation behind its coverage. “That’s what we do as journalists,” they wrote. “We alert you to something you may not know, but should know, for your own good.”
At Trusting News we’ve talked a lot about how important labeling opinion content is. We hope you agree with us, and we’ll keep talking about it. But truly transparent practices around opinion pieces need to go further than labeling. What if you told your audience whose opinion is being shared? Or why this person’s opinion is being shared? 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
Journalists serve as a community’s watchdogs. That idea is a core part of what we value and what we strive for. But does your community understand what that means? They may understand the basic concept: watch out for wrongdoing and call it out when we see it. But do they know how that’s different than “gotcha” reporting? And do we sometimes hide behind being watchdogs while actually just reporting on “gotcha” moments? 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

 

A big part of what we do at the Trusting News project is help journalists talk about how we do our jobs, including how and why we make decisions. When we explain our process, we allow users to see how our story came together, why we put resources toward covering the story and why we chose to include certain people, images and words. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here

 

Isn’t it frustrating to watch news outlets get something dead wrong that you worked hard to get right? It’s important that we correct misinformation, especially on topics we have expertise in. It’s something we can do without spitefulness, and often without even naming the journalists who are at fault. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
When President Trump launched a Twitter attack against Baltimore last month, The opinion staff at The Baltimore Sun clapped back, with an editorial headlined “Better to have a few rats than to be one.” But, did people understand the distinction of where the views and message in the editorial came from? We’re not so sure, and here’s why. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
How do you choose which stories to cover? That question is high on the list of what your audience wants to know about your work. And as we wrote in an earlier newsletter, without clear answers from you, they’re making plenty of assumptions.
Rather than letting your audience guess about your agenda, try telling them what you’re trying to accomplish. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
“Not available for comment.” It’s a phrase journalists often insert into stories without much thought. Sometimes it means we left messages every day for a week. And sometimes it means we texted 30 minutes before deadline. How is our audience to know the difference? 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
Journalists often face tough decisions when it comes to whether and how to publish disturbing images. They carefully weigh their responsibility to accurately and compellingly reflect a harsh reality while also avoiding exploitation and respecting the preferences and privacy of both their audience members and the subjects of the images. As Kelly McBride wrote for Poynter last week, it’s not up to newsrooms to shield their communities from hard truths, but they can minimize harm by treating the situation carefully. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
When writing a story or headline, journalists are ideally choosing their words carefully. Sometimes our decisions follow company style guides. Other times they’re the center of lengthy newsroom discussions. But we very rarely talk to our audiences about why we use certain words over others, let alone shine a light on the debate and discussion that took place. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Beyond opinion coverage, it can smooth the news consumption process to tell people what to expect. And labels don’t have to be formal (like a word in all caps at the top of the page). Think creatively about how and where to signal the type of content you’re offering (on every platform you’re offering it). Start with content you know your audience wants. Do they know you’re offering it? More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Not being able to tell opinion content from news content is a frustration a lot of news consumers have. And, in some cases, that’s for good reason. Across platforms, news organizations don’t always make it easy. We have to make sure we are labeling our content and using words the public will understand. And the words “editorial” and “op-ed” do not necessarily help our situation. We know what those words mean, but not all users do. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Newsrooms get a lot of complaints about covering too much “bad news.” Too much conflict, violence, argument and devastation. In short, too many problems. Some of that comes with the territory, of course. Shining a light on a community’s challenges is a key function of journalism. But often, we try to aggressively report not just on problems but also on the people and projects working to solve them. We highlight what’s working, not just what’s broken. And when we do that, we need to clearly point it out. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here
Recently, I was so excited to listen to a behind-the-scenes episode of a favorite podcast. The host promised wild stories about how a story I’d enjoyed had come together. In reality, though, much of the episode focused on some pretty mundane aspects of how reporting happens — like how interviews and sources fell through, the weather made travel complicated and a staff member was sidelined by a sick kid. To read more from this edition click here and you can sign up for the weekly “Trust Tips” newsletter by clicking here.
We’re learning a lot at Trusting News about how news consumers decide what to trust and what journalists can do in response. Lynn and I could (and often do) talk all day about it! (It’s nerdy, we know.) But with the launch this week of a revamped TrustingNews.org, we’re hoping to give you a simple on-ramp to discussing trust in your newsroom. To read more from this edition click here and you can sign up for the weekly “Trust Tips” newsletter by clicking 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.
USA TODAY heard from readers on Facebook that they were not always sure when they were reading news and when they were reading opinion. Editors tried manually adding the word Column to some headlines for Facebook, and they perceived a lower level of confusion as a result. It seemed easier for readers to acknowledge that they were consuming a piece designed to have a certain perspective.
In response to criticism for spending time on light stories — sometimes perceived as frivolous — Coloradoan reporter Erin Udell included an explanation that said: “This is a first-person perspective by reporter Erin Udell. She covers art, entertainment and fun in Fort Collins. She also enjoys answering the occasional silly question. She can be reached at erinudell@coloradoan.com or on Twitter @erinudell.” Doing so explained why this story was being done and cut down on pushback.
When The Coloradoan made changes to their paywall, the newsroom decided to address the changes directly with their users by writing a column. In it, they explained why they were making the change: News isn’t free to produce and also how they would handle comments that instructed folks on how to get around the paywall or displayed our whole stories for free.
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.
A new neighbor once said that until she got to know me a bit, she always thought of journalists as ambulance chasers. But she then — with no irony — told me how excited she was about a story she’d seen in the arts section that weekend that had allowed her to make a meaningful connection with a like-minded person. It didn’t register with her that local journalists had concretely enriched her life just in the last few days. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Trust Tips 4: Use Direct Language
Cutline, VOSOT, A1 — just because you say it in the newsroom doesn’t mean your audience will understand it. We all know how important it is to use words that help us communicate clearly with our audiences. That’s true for the language we use when reporting on complex topics, and when we talk about our own work. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Trust Tips 3: Be ready to discuss content you don't produce
Who do you trust to inform your audience of things that happen outside your coverage area? When was the last time you and your colleagues had a good talk about the stories you publish that you don’t produce yourselves? We’re here to tell you: Your audience is talking about those stories, and they’re holding you accountable for them. This is from our “Trust Tips” weekly newsletter. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Picture the process of how your newsroom decides which stories to cover. Which meetings? Which crimes? Which festivals? Which games? If we’re honest, a lot of those decisions happen intuitively. We have conventions we follow about what’s newsworthy and what’s not. We have big-picture fairness we’re trying to achieve when it comes to who and what gets attention. We know what stories we did last year and try not to repeat them. This is from our “Trust Tips” weekly newsletter. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
Being responsive isn't always easy, especially when the comments are negative or critical of your reporting. CALmatters used their newsroom account and one of their reporter's personal Twitter accounts to respond to criticism about the sources they use in their stories. They never received a response when offering to have the conversation, but felt it sent the message that their newsroom wants feedback from everyone, even people who are critical of their reporting.
Being responsive isn’t always easy, especially when the comments are negative or critical of your reporting. CALmatters used their newsroom account and one of their reporter’s personal Twitter accounts to respond to criticism about the sources they use in their stories. They never received a response when offering to have the conversation, but felt it sent the message that their newsroom wants feedback from everyone, even people who are critical of their reporting.
KCRG decided to explain to users how it was going to cover President Donald Trump's use of profanity to describe some third-world countries.
KCRG decided to explain to users how it was going to cover President Donald Trump’s use of profanity to describe some third-world countries. In the opinion piece, a news manager explains how they are going to cover the story differently than other media organizations, by focusing on the “why” and not the reactionary soundbites. This post allowed the newsroom to explain its news values and set itself apart from “the media,” a group that when lumped together can often be criticized and distrusted. KCRG also shared the post on Facebook and asked for feedback on how they chose to cover the story.
KCRG decided to explain to users how it was going to cover President Donald Trump's use of profanity to describe some third-world countries.
KCRG decided to explain to users how it was going to cover President Donald Trump’s use of profanity to describe some third-world countries. In the opinion piece, a news manager explains how they are going to cover the story differently than other media organizations, by focusing on the “why” and not the reactionary soundbites. This post allowed the newsroom to explain its news values and set itself apart from “the media,” a group that when lumped together can often be criticized and distrusted. KCRG also shared the post on Facebook and asked for feedback on how they chose to cover the story.
Annenberg Media updated their "about" section on their YouTube channel
Annenberg Media updated their “about” section on their YouTube channel to explain a new series they were launching called “Full Disclosure.” They told users, “We want you to trust us. We’re pulling back the curtain on the decisions that go into reporting and publishing stories at Annenberg Media…” The description provides clarity for the user while the newsroom capitalizes on a simple branding opportunity offered by the social platform.
Annenberg Media updated their "about" section on their YouTube channel
Annenberg Media updated their “about” section on their YouTube channel to explain a new series they were launching called “Full Disclosure.” They told users, “We want you to trust us. We’re pulling back the curtain on the decisions that go into reporting and publishing stories at Annenberg Media…” The description provides clarity for the user while the newsroom capitalizes on a simple branding opportunity offered by the social platform.
Themes:
Newsroom:
While putting together an annual newspaper edition focused on progress, Enid went to Facebook to ask for story ideas. They were specific about what types of topics the story ideas should be about and included an email address for where to send ideas. The newsroom saw this as a way to get fresh story ideas for something they work on every year.
While putting together an annual newspaper edition focused on progress, Enid went to Facebook to ask for story ideas. They were specific about what types of topics the story ideas should be about and included an email address for where to send ideas. The newsroom saw this as a way to get fresh story ideas for something they work on every year.
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.
In an effort to be more transparent with its users, the Jefferson City News Tribune, wrote a column about how the editorial page works. In the column they discuss their mission as a news organization, explain that the editorial page is made up of people's opinions not news and then talk about how the page works. They explain that they are an independent paper that tends to lean conservative but they still look to include other views different than their own. They also embedded their user feedback form at the bottom of the article.
In an effort to be more transparent with its users, the Jefferson City News Tribune, wrote a column about how the editorial page works. In the column they discuss their mission as a news organization, explain that the editorial page is made up of people’s opinions not news and then talk about how the page works. They explain that they are an independent paper that tends to lean conservative but they still look to include other views different than their own. They also embedded their user feedback form at the bottom of the article.
When two opposing groups held rallies on the same day, the Jefferson City News Tribune took the opportunity to show users how they try to be balanced in their reporting. They published two articles (one about each rally) and then added a note at the top of each story linking to the story about the opposing rally. The analytics showed people were navigating to the stories from the link on the opposing story, in some cases.
When two opposing groups held rallies on the same day, the Jefferson City News Tribune took the opportunity to show users how they try to be balanced in their reporting. They published two articles (one about each rally) and then added a note at the top of each story linking to the story about the opposing rally. The analytics showed people were navigating to the stories from the link on the opposing story, in some cases.
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.
To highlight their push for including multiple perspectives in stories, WITF added the following to the top of some web stories: "WITF strives to provide nuanced perspectives from the most authoritative sources. We are on the lookout for biases or assumptions in our own work, and we invite you to point out any we may have missed. Contact us on our Trusting News page."
To highlight their push for including multiple perspectives in stories, WITF added the following to the top of some web stories: “WITF strives to provide nuanced perspectives from the most authoritative sources. We are on the lookout for biases or assumptions in our own work, and we invite you to point out any we may have missed. Contact us on our Trusting News page.”
A journalist at the Community Impact newspaper group used Twitter to talk about the news organization's mission and explain journalism. The journalist used a personal account to share the information in a Twitter thread. He discussed how they work to be accurate in their reporting and offered to answer any questions people have about the news organization's coverage or journalism in general.
A journalist at the Community Impact newspaper group used Twitter to talk about the news organization’s mission and explain journalism. The journalist used a personal account to share the information in a Twitter thread. He discussed how they work to be accurate in their reporting and offered to answer any questions people have about the news organization’s coverage or journalism in general.
The Coloradoan posted an article on their website explaining why they waited to report on sexual misconduct allegations against a local comedian.
The Coloradoan posted an article on their website explaining why they waited to report on sexual misconduct allegations against a local comedian. To explain why their reporting came later, while other news organizations published it sooner, the article discussed their reporting process to verify the information and the ethical considerations they had to make along the way. When they shared the article on Facebook there was one critical commenter who apologized for earlier comments made after reading the reporting explanation.
The Coloradoan posted an article on their website explaining why they waited to report on sexual misconduct allegations against a local comedian.
The Coloradoan posted an article on their website explaining why they waited to report on sexual misconduct allegations against a local comedian. To explain why their reporting came later, while other news organizations published it sooner, the article discussed their reporting process to verify the information and the ethical considerations they had to make along the way. When they shared the article on Facebook there was one critical commenter who apologized for earlier comments made after reading the reporting explanation.
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.
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 covering a local political story that was divisive in the community, the Jefferson City News Tribune decided to write about their approach to covering the issue. On their website they published a column explaining the news decisions they made and how they incorporated coverage from national news organizations. Their goal was to explain to users that they were making news coverage decisions with the public in mind. They said they received positive and negative feedback, with one individual saying the column motivated them to reach out to the newsroom.
While covering a local political story that was divisive in the community, the Jefferson City News Tribune decided to write about their approach to covering the issue. On their website, they published a column explaining the news decisions they made and how they incorporated coverage from national news organizations. Their goal was to explain to users that they were making news coverage decisions with the public in mind. They said they received positive and negative feedback, with one individual saying the column motivated them to reach out to the newsroom.
The Day used Facebook to answer questions from users about how their news process works. They used the opportunity to explain story selection, coverage priorities and their journalism ethics. The Q&A, conducted through the comments section of the post on Facebook, reached more than 5,000 people and almost all of the feedback was positive, even when the answer was not exactly what the user wanted to hear.
The Day used Facebook to answer questions from users about how their news process works. They used the opportunity to explain story selection, coverage priorities and their journalism ethics. The Q&A, conducted through the comments section of the post on Facebook, reached more than 5,000 people and almost all of the feedback was positive, even when the answer was not exactly what the user wanted to hear.
WCPO discussed their core beliefs as a news organization while updating their "about" page on their website. They told users they loved their city, discussed how they strive for accuracy and said one of their goals is to be transparent with users. The post was also shared on Facebook where it received hundreds of comments. The news organization said the post worked well and "people seemed to relate, ask questions and respond" to them.
WCPO discussed their core beliefs as a news organization while updating their “about” page on their website. They told users they loved their city, discussed how they strive for accuracy and said one of their goals is to be transparent with users. The post was also shared on Facebook where it received hundreds of comments. The news organization said the post worked well and “people seemed to relate, ask questions and respond” to them.
By posting a story on their website, WITF decided to explain how journalists put together one of the shows they air. The article discussed how they use wire content and other national news coverage. It also discussed how much of the news segment is local.
In a story on their website, WITF explains how journalists put together one of the shows they air. The article discusses how they use wire content and other national news coverage, and what their relationship is to those partner organizations. It also discusses how much of the news segment is local.
WITF wanted to show users they are connected to the community so they added a note at the top of a story. It read, "WITF is part of your community. We're your neighbors. We invest in this type of reporting because it's vital to talk about life in our region, not about politics. Learn more about our involvement in the Trusting News project."
WITF wanted to show users they are connected to the community so they added a note at the top of a story. It read, “WITF is part of your community. We’re your neighbors. We invest in this type of reporting because it’s vital to talk about life in our region, not about politics. Learn more about our involvement in the Trusting News project.”
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.
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.
When faced with the question of whether or not to cover another school threat in the D.C.-area, WUSA decided to pose the question to their audience. "Should the media report on all threats targeted at schools? Tweet us your thoughts using #OffScriptOn9," they posted in Twitter. In the Twitter thread they discussed that they did not have a set policy about whether or not cover school threats and that the newsroom is often debating this issue internally.
When faced with the question of whether or not to cover another school threat in the D.C.-area, WUSA decided to pose the question to their audience. “Should the media report on all threats targeted at schools? Tweet us your thoughts using #OffScriptOn9,” they posted on Twitter. In the Twitter thread, they discussed that they did not have a set policy about whether or not cover school threats and that the newsroom is often debating this issue internally.
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.
Screenshot from WITF's website, showing a post with the headline: "Media is criticized; not trusted by half of Americans"
During a daily, live radio show, WITF put the focus of the show on journalism and declining trust in news. They invited industry experts and took questions from listeners, which they answered after the show. The show was honest about the issues facing the industry while also offering insight into how news works.
Screenshot from WCPO's Facebook page, showing an article where they asked for reader feedback.
WCPO followed the lead of ESPN and reported that an NFL player would be leaving the Bengals. Turns out it wasn’t true. WCPO addressed the mistake head-on by writing about how the mistake happened on their website. They shared their step-by-step reporting process, which involved relying on ESPN’s citing of anonymous sources. This led them to share their anonymous source policy and ask their audience for feedback. “Should we publish and air stories from other respected news organizations citing anonymous sources,” they asked. They then shared the article with a call for feedback on Facebook.
Screenshot from a Facebook LIVE video on USA TODAY's page, showing a discussion between readers and experts.
USA TODAY invited two people who commented on a previous Facebook Live, sharing traumatic stories involving assault and abuse, to join a Facebook Live via Skype, with a representative of the Women’s Center in Washington, D.C. Engaging with users throughout all aspects of reporting made this possible. While logistically challenging, USA TODAY was very happy with how it turned out, and so were users.