The Trusting News Project


How do news consumers decide what information to trust, and how can journalists teach users to be smarter consumers and sharers?

As our fellow community members — voters, neighbors, family members, co-workers — face more options for what to include in their information diets, how can journalists influence what their followers pick to snack on? How do news consumers decide what’s good for them? How can they tell what brands they should rely on and support?

In the era of fake stories, when untruths often travel faster than the truth, what can credible journalists do to stand out?

Those are the questions this project set out to answer.


Beginning in January 2016, our team interviewed journalists and nonjournalists to get a sense of the elements that create trust and credibility between communicator and receiver. We read related academic research and industry best practices. From that work, three themes emerged around what journalists need to do:

We turned each theme into several specific strategies we wished journalists would experiment with.

In the spring, we put out a call for journalists willing to work with us. We were hoping for diversity of coverage type, medium, geography and size.

What we asked of the partner organizations:

  • Work with us to determine which of our strategies were a good fit for their goals and their staff capacity. Newsrooms picked as few as two strategies to test or as many as 8.
  • Commit to at least one post per week for each selected strategy, for about three months. Some newsrooms began in May, and the last ones finished up in September.
  • Keep a log of each post, tracking how the audience responded (qualitatively and quantitatively) and how the newsroom felt about it.
  • Participate in a Slack conversation with the other partners.
  • Allow us to publicly share the results of their experiments.


Of the 16 newsrooms that signed up to participate, 14 were able to commit to the project and produce usable data. Read about them here. 

A Plus
Coloradoan in Fort Collins
Enid News and Eagle in Oklahoma
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The Fresno Bee in California
Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida
Kansas City Star
KLRU in Austin, Texas
Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah
Religion News Service
Schools Week in London
St. Louis Magazine
WCPO in Cincinnati


For our 14 partner newsrooms, testing these new strategies meant spending some time outside of their normal social media routines. In order to craft social posts designed specifically to earn trust, our partners thought critically about the relationships they had and hoped to build with their users. Hear from five editors who challenged themselves to try on a new social media mindset for a few months, and who learned a lot about their online communities along the way.

Voices in this piece belong to: Maricar Estrella, Fort-Worth Star Telegram; Kathy Mahan, The Fresno Bee; Abby Rogers, A Plus; Ann Elise Taylor, The Ogden Standard-Examiner; Sara Robertson, KLRU.

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Thank you to the dozens of staffers in our partner newsrooms for sharing their time, their observations and their audiences with us. In addition, thank you to these practitioners in a variety of disciplines for sharing their work and expertise with our project:

Elissa Adair, public health communicator
Sheetal Agarwal, communications strategist
Ashley Alvarado, KPCC
Dorothy Amatucci, U.S. Department of Education
Cory Bergman, Breaking News
Jim Brady, Billy Penn
Kari Cobham, Cox Media Group
Jane Elizabeth, American Press Institute
Nick Gass, Politico
Cubby Graham, charity: water
Joe Hadsel, Joplin Globe
Gloria Huang, FEMA
James Janega, Slalom Consulting
Mandy Jenkins, Storyful
Genevieve Judge, Sarasota Police Department
Lauren Katz, Vox
Michelle Lee, Washington Post
Sally Lehrman, The Trust Project
Ryan Martin, Indianapolis Star
Jan Oldenburg, participatory health consultant
Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times
Jen Reeves, AARP
Teresa Schmedding, Daily Herald Media Group
Abbie Schmid, VML
Jeff Sonderman, American Press Institute
Jessica Stahl, Washington Post
Carol Stark, Joplin Globe