Let’s find out what conservatives really think about local news (not “the media”)

Joy Mayer
Trusting News
Published in
5 min readFeb 25, 2021


We know there’s a partisan divide related to trust in news: people who lean right are much less likely to trust what journalists produce. You probably don’t need polling data to tell you that. A spin through comment sections and reporter inboxes can provide plenty of evidence.

Yet in service of democracy, a shared set of facts and healthy conversations (plus our financial sustainability), isn’t it vital that journalists be seen as credible storytellers, documenters and truth tellers across our polarized communities?

As we first told you a couple of months ago, the Trusting News team is committed to learning more about this problem and helping newsrooms navigate it, and we’re starting with a listening project. We are inviting journalists from local newsrooms to interview right-leaning individuals in their own communities about their perceptions of journalism. (Note: Even the label can be a challenge, and not one size fits all. Right-leaning? Conservative? Republican? That’s one of the many things we’ll address!)


  • Would your journalism and your staff benefit from deep conversations with conservatives in your coverage area?
  • Would you appreciate our team’s support to guide and set up those conversations?
  • Would you be willing to share what you learn with us, so we can analyze responses across the country and share them with the industry?

If the answer is yes, let us know by completing this form, also embedded below this post.

(UPDATE: See the newsrooms that participated here, and stay tuned for a research report in Summer 2021.)

We are working with our longtime research partners at the Center for Media Engagement to develop the materials and analyze the results. You’d be guided by them, and by the Trusting News team, throughout the process.

Read below for more details about how the listening project will work:

How would I find people to interview?

We’ll give you a survey to share with your audience, gathering some basic info about news preferences and attitudes, demographics and political leanings. You send it out in any way that works for you. You can share it with select community groups. You can send it to all subscribers. You can share it on social media and in newsletters, or mention it on air. You get to decide how many people you’d like to hear from. The survey will ask people if they’d be willing to be interviewed, and we’ll help you identify a mix of people whose perspectives would be most valuable.

Tell me more about these interviews

We’re asking each newsroom to interview 3–5 people, over video chat or phone. We expect each interview to run 30–60 minutes. You’ll record the talks and send them to the research team, and you’re welcome to take notes as well. We’ll give you an interview guide to follow. Your job will be to listen well and probe for insights, not to have a long back-and-forth conversation or get into a debate about the mechanics or value of journalism! Two other factors because this is an academic study: Interview subjects will not be identified by their real names in research reports, and we’ll cover the cost and disbursement of a $25 gift card for their participation.

Our team at Trusting News will also ask you to reflect on the process — what you learned, what surprised you and how it felt — with some questions after the fact.

I don’t work in a local newsroom. Can I still participate?

Much more is known about perceptions of “the media” on a national level than a local level, and we’re hoping to close that gap with this project. Our interview guide is heavily focused on local news, so we’re looking for participants who represent a local news brand in a specific geographic area. We will be sharing our interview questions publicly, though, and invite any newsroom not selected — or freelancers or national journalists — to take part on their own. We’d welcome the chance to hear how it goes!

What’s in it for me?

When we did a project similar to this a few years ago, the journalists who participated said they appreciated the chance to sit and talk to individual news consumers about what they think of the news. It was grounding, and illuminating. We think you’ll learn some things that surprise you — and that will help you do journalism that better connects with your community. Your insights will then be analyzed alongside those from a couple dozen other newsrooms, and what we all learn together will help the industry tackle this important problem from a more informed, empowered place.

In addition, we’d love to connect you to other newsrooms who care about this topic. You’d be invited to a dedicated channel on the Trusting News Slack workspace to facilitate the exchange of ideas, and you would be kept in the loop about future training and programming on the topic.

How many newsrooms will be selected?

We’re hoping to choose about 25 newsrooms, each of which will provide 3 to 5 interviews. We’re looking for diversity of geography, community size and platform.

What comes next?

Fill out the form below by March 8. If you’re selected, our plan is for you to start publishing the survey in mid to late March and then conduct the interviews soon thereafter. The Center for Media Engagement team will analyze results and publish their insights in the summer.

Still have questions?

We’ll host an optional information session about the project on Tuesday, March, 2, from 1–1:30 pm ET. Register for that here. Or feel free to email us at info@TrustingNews.org.

Ready to indicate your interest?

By March 8, fill out the form below, or find it at this link.

Trusting News is designed to demystify the issue of trust in journalism. We research how people decide what news is credible, then turn that knowledge into actionable strategies for journalists. We’re funded by the Reynolds Journalism Institute, the American Press Institute, Democracy Fund and the Knight Foundation. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Subscribe to our Trust Tips newsletter. Read more about our work at TrustingNews.org.



Joy Mayer
Trusting News

Director of Trusting News. It’s up to journalists to demonstrate credibility and *earn* trust. Subscribe here: http://trustingnews.org/newsletter/