Newsrooms need to tell a consistent, repetitive story about what motivates their work, the range of information and stories they offer, what sets them apart, who they are, how they operate and how people can reach them.
Telling that story should be a constant drumbeat — part of the rhythm of our work as journalists.
So, how do you get started? You can start by talking about your mission, discussing your ethics and asking for feedback.
Explain the principles and goals that guide your work. Do it clearly, and talk directly to your audience. Your statement of purpose should live not just on your “About” page but within your daily journalism. Start here.
Take time to tell the story of your decision making. Explain how you cover topics like crime, politics and suicide. Describe your funding and ownership. Discuss how you choose which stories to cover. Start here.
How You Ask
Invest in understanding the feedback you receive. Look for themes, then invite more input. Ask your audience what they think of you. Do they trust you? Do they think you cover your community fairly? Start here.
Talk about these concepts in your newsroom. How much do you know about the perceptions users have of your work? Where could you most improve overall? What projects, topics or platforms might be especially fruitful avenues for demonstrating credibility and earning trust?
At Trusting News, we believe everywhere you communicate with your audience is an opportunity to tell the story of your work. Don’t save these messages for editor’s columns or About pages (although we’re fans of those, too). Inject your trust-building messages into your actual journalism.
If you’re ready, you can get free, personalized help from the Trusting News team in a 30-minute coaching call. Request your session here.
Want to hear more? In the video below, Trusting News staff Joy Mayer and Lynn Walsh talk through some basic concepts of our approach and show examples from newsrooms we’ve partnered with so far. (You can also click through the introductory slide deck here.)
The Trusting News project has also developed seven strategies to help newsrooms rebuild trust with their users. A summary of each strategy is below. Click on the strategy name to dive a little deeper.
Look for specific (not general) ways to invite feedback and conversation, and be responsive to what you hear. Think about how we respond to people in person. It’s rare for human beings to walk away when someone is talking to them. They feel obligated to at least acknowledge the person, even if they don’t have time for a long chat. Duplicate this online.
Invite users to know the people producing the news. As odd as it might seem to you, most people don’t personally know a journalist. We can change their perceptions and challenge their assumptions by showing some humanity.
People say they want to see evidence of fair, deep reporting and thoughtful decision-making. Are you providing that evidence? Not all your users care to know what goes on behind the scenes as your journalism sausage gets made. — but many do. Some are hyper-interested in it. They’re looking for signs you’re being lazy, partisan or unfair. Others have a good-natured interest. They find the news process interesting and feel more of a connection to you if you invite them into it. This is not about bragging. It’s about transparency.
People assume journalists are controlled by corporate interests. They think what matters most to us are clicks and ratings, and that our editorial decision-making is guided by those priorities. They don’t know what our professional ethics look like. They don’t know that we are committed to correcting errors. Share your policies and standards.
The media landscape is crowded, and not everything done in the name of journalism is responsible. Differentiate yourself from the impersonal, generic, misunderstood cultural phenomenon. Look for chances to explain who you are, what you do and why you’re here — your motivations and purpose. Communicate your values (and therefore your value).
News consumers are confused about the difference between news, analysis and opinion. Consider that sometimes, especially with broadcast, the delineations are not always made clear. It can be tough to tell when tuning into a story, who’s interviewing and who’s analyzing. Consumers are also confused because of the atomized way content travels. A story appearing online in the opinion section might appear in a social feed as just another headline. Label all content clearly.
Users overwhelmingly say they want to see multiple sides of a story, but they don’t always realize they’re getting it. While the balance might seem obvious to us, we need to point it out to our audience. Your goal with this strategy is to assure your audience balance is a goal of yours (not that you always achieve it), and point out when they’re getting it.