Trusting News
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Trusting News

A graphic that reads: 86% of respondents said they felt a sense of trust building with journalists or the news organization. 28% were considering subscribing.
Read more about how this research was done and what recommendations came from the analysis.

Research insights: Reaching and building trust with diverse audiences

A research project: outreach and listening

Trusting News spent eight weeks this summer working with partner newsrooms to help them learn how they could earn the trust of diverse audiences. We wanted to help journalists learn how they could incorporate outreach efforts with maximum impact and efficiency so they could learn about the needs and perceptions of people with low trust in news in their communities.

What we learned

Overall, what we found is that simply having these conversations helped build a sense of trust between those who were interviewed and the journalists.

Here are some other notable insights.

A quick note: Remember as you read these that the 76 people interviewed were not a representative sample of news consumers. They were chosen to reflect on the lack of trust that they and people like them have in the news.

  • People think news is politically biased. Some respondents believed news — both national and the local news — to be biased in some way (especially political), underfunded, and incompetent.
  • People think journalists are a cause of polarization. Some respondents thought that journalists are one cause of polarization and thus, have a role in decreasing it through a deeper commitment to showing all the different perspectives in as neutral a way as possible.
  • The public wants “just the facts.” Respondents had a variety of roles they wanted journalists to play, with the usual “report the facts, neutrally” the vast majority branding of comments. Most agreed that journalism was essential for democracy and also for healthy communities, but not in its current form. Interestingly, there was a split between community members who identified as conservative or those who identified as liberal. Conservatives want reporters to stop content about Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ communities and identities, and other “liberal” topics. They want reporters to stop using politicized phrases and go with terms like “voting integrity” and “constitutional conservative.” They want “just the facts.” Liberals, on the other hand, want more contexts and histories incorporated into coverage, especially of marginalized communities — though they too want “just the facts.” They want reporters to call out politicians who are lying or being racist, etc. And in general, they want reporters to play a role in helping communities solve problems.

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7 strategies to employ

From these findings, our research team has seven strategies we recommend to help newsrooms focus on outreach.

  1. Build community capital
  2. Engage in partnerships
  3. Tell audiences how journalism works
  4. Be careful when it comes to language and story framing
  5. Be Relevant and Useful
  6. Consolidate Energy
  7. Be Accountable to Your Communities

1. Build community capital

Journalists have the power to shape trust with their communities, but to do this newsrooms must move beyond seeing audiences as a subscription number to seeing audiences as a part of the conversation. Start utilizing listening sessions, social media and community leaders to hear what the community needs, wants and thinks relative to the newsroom.

2. Engage in partnerships

We heard from the community members they wanted to see more positive and joyful stories. But many of them felt the reason they don’t see them is that journalists haven’t spent time getting to know the community beyond political leaders, police or high-powered members.

3. Tell audiences how journalism works

One theme we saw repeatedly come up was that there was confusion around how different types of journalism works, and that sometimes that confusion leads to mistrust or avoidance of certain media outlets.

4. Be careful when it comes to language and story framing

Feeling misunderstood is incredibly common to community members. It didn’t matter their political affiliation, walk of life or demographic, community members said they feel journalists rely too heavily on over-generalizations and simplification of problems.

5. Be relevant and useful

Approach all group members with respect, especially if you lack cultural relevancy and especially if they are experiencing trauma. If you are trying to reach more immigrant populations, make sure to translate into that language as much as you can; consider having a separate online presence dedicated to that translation.

6. Consolidate energy

There may be community members you are not able to reach. That can be hard for journalists to accept. But if a group won’t be won over by facts, they likely will never be consumers or supporters of your news.

7. Be accountable to your communities

Our final recommendation is to admit when mistakes are made and follow up on stories. If you identify a bias that crept into your reporting, fix in the next time around. We reiterate that you should be transparent about reporters’ biases through transparency sidebars that explain how the reporter mitigates their bias.

We’re continuing on this Road to Pluralism

We’re excited to continue learning alongside newsrooms, helping journalists better understand audience perceptions and how people might feel about their coverage. Read more about the work we want to help newsrooms while on the Road to Pluralism.

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