The Capitol Times used the Citizen Agenda model to ask their communities what they wanted from the newsroom’s election coverage, and then used the responses to shape their coverage. “Today, after receiving more than 100 responses, we are publishing a first draft of our People’s Agenda. It includes, in order of frequency, the eight priorities that came up most often in the responses, along with some related questions for elected officials that we heard or distilled,” a column the paper published about the initiative said. The guide also included a “how we did this box” that covered how the newsroom tried to get accurate representation from the community.
After two back-to-back shootings in Kenosha that garnered national attention, the Milwuakee Journal Sentinel wrote a column answering reader questions and explaining it’s reporting process, including why they didn’t report on the criminal record of the victims involved in both situations. “Our natural instinct as journalists is to report what we know. But that instinct has to be tempered by the demands of accuracy and fairness,” the column read. “Sometimes we must wait until we can independently verify a detail to ensure its accuracy. Other times, certain details aren’t relevant to what’s being reported, whether true or not, and including them might color a story unfairly.” The newsroom also posted the column in a Q&A style format on its Instagram page, gaining more than 1,000 likes and dozens of comments thanking the paper for its thoughtful coverage.
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.
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.
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.