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.”
At Trusting News, we’re often asked by newsrooms how we know our strategies work. It’s an important question. We’re always happy to point to examples of what newsrooms say is effective but we’re also especially grateful when we have the chance to work with academic researchers. Through a series of focus groups, Trusting News and the Center for Media Engagement found that TV newsrooms can build trust with their audiences by explaining why a story is covered, providing additional resources at the end of stories and inviting audience participation. More from this edition can be found here and to receive the tips in your inbox each week click here.
In 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.

 

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
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
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.
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.
After receiving a lot of criticism for a published "letter to the editor," the State decided to add an editor's note to the bottom of all letters printed by the news organization. The note reads, "The State publishes a cross section of the letters we receive from South Carolinians in order to provide a forum for our community and also to allow our community to get a good look at itself, for good or bad. The letters represent the views of the letter writers, not necessarily of The State."
After receiving a lot of criticism for a published letter to the editor, The State decided to add an editor’s note to the bottom of all letters printed by the news organization. The note reads, “The State publishes a cross section of the letters we receive from South Carolinians in order to provide a forum for our community and also to allow our community to get a good look at itself, for good or bad. The letters represent the views of the letter writers, not necessarily of The State.”
As journalists, we sometimes forget that words in our daily vocabulary might not be familiar to readers. The Virginian-Pilot created a plain-language glossary, explaining terms like wire, editorial, exclusive, and more. Having this reference can come in handy when readers have questions, like whether "analysis" is news or opinion.
As journalists, we sometimes forget that words in our daily vocabulary might not be familiar to readers. The Virginian-Pilot created a plain-language glossary, explaining terms like wire, editorial, exclusive, and more. Having this reference can come in handy when readers have questions, like whether “analysis” is news or opinion.
Hashtags can let your Twitter followers know what type of story you're sharing at a glance, helping them to frame their expectations before even landing on your website. The Virginian-Pilot created hashtags to better categorize content on Twitter for their users. They created #VPColumn and #VPEditorial for opinion content, and #VPBreaking for developing stories.
Hashtags can let your Twitter followers know what type of story you’re sharing at a glance, helping them to frame their expectations before even landing on your website. The Virginian-Pilot created hashtags to better categorize content on Twitter for their users. They created #VPColumn and #VPEditorial for opinion content and #VPBreaking for developing stories.
By writing "Fact-check" into the headline of stories, the Coloradoan boosted credibility and helped readers know what to expect, both on-site and on social media. Stressing that the story started with reader questions led to several positive comments. One of those commenters said, "thanks for keeping it real, Coloradoan!"
By writing “Fact-check” into the headline of stories, the Coloradoan boosted credibility and helped readers know what to expect, both on-site and on social media. Stressing that the story started with reader questions led to several positive comments. One of those commenters said, “thanks for keeping it real, Coloradoan!”

Newsy Trump coverage

Look for chances to tie individual coverage to your organization’s mission. In this case, Newsy didn’t just share a fact check. They used the words “fact check” to make sure the point came across, and they reinforced their core principles.