At Trusting News, we’ve been on a quest to understand how people decide what news to trust since 2016. And as we wrap up one chapter of our work and prepare for the next, we want to stop and say an important thank you.
Journalism happens in the very messy real world, and learning about journalism needs to happen there as well. We couldn’t be on this journey without our newsroom partners — journalists who are willing to work with their own audiences to test trust-building strategies, demonstrate their credibility and better understand the nature of trust and mistrust.
We’ve just finished another round of newsroom testing. Next we’ll analyze what we’ve learned, prepare for more experiments and make plans to help elevate responsible journalism (through training and coaching) in as many communities as we can. None of this would be possible without our three funders: the Reynolds Journalism Institute, the Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund.
What our newsrooms say about participating
We’ll have lots to share this summer about our newsrooms’ experiences. But for now, here are observations offered up by two of our most recent participants.
Daniel Brown, assistant news director at WCNC in Charlotte, NC:
I would say one thing I am proud of was the news management’s willingness to talk to our viewers inside web scripts. We were able to explain our reasoning in editor’s notes, etc. This was something I think we should incorporate more of. It let’s the viewers know WHY we chose to do some things and not others. We did this on a few different stories.
I also learned that we already do a lot of the things viewers are demanding, but fail to highlight them in an easy to understand way. Every story we cover comes with editorial decisions — should we show this? Can we say that? Did we talk to that group? Is this appropriate? But what we fail to do is raise the curtain on the process. This is not something that adds extra time … and doesn’t take any resources. It’s simply spelling out to our viewers our journalistic process.
Laura Davis, digital news director of the Annenberg Media Center:
I very much want my students to leave Annenberg armed with the ability to think critically about how the news is presented and to understand that they can’t take the audience’s trust for granted. I also want them to try new things and approach news consumers thoughtfully through their journalism. This project helped me accomplish all those goals.
I think my tweet thread outlined some of the things I’m most proud of, but I’d especially like to highlight our Instagram series, which was overseen by my colleague Rebecca Haggerty, and the development and publication of our ethics guide, which was overseen by my colleague Stacy Scholder.
By way of recap, so far we’ve …
- Run newsroom experiments (with these newsrooms) on using social media to build trust. You can see results from those experiments — and search a database of about 500 Facebook posts — at TrustingNews.org.
- Asked news consumers about trust directly (with these newsrooms). Those newsroom collectively got 8,728 responses to a questionnaire and conducted 81 in-depth interviews.
- Tested seven trust-building strategies (with many of the newsrooms listed here who originally signed up). This post describes how we’ve been measuring success and also outlines the structure of this round of experiments. A series of posts on Medium have looked at what newsrooms have tried, and lots more will follow this summer.
The 53 newsrooms who have made our work possible
Here’s the complete list of newsrooms who have formally participated in our work. We’re so grateful for their time and commitment.
After each news organization’s name, we’ll indicate which phase(s) of the work (1, 2 and/or 3, from the list above) each participated in. Please take special note of the dedication on display from the newsrooms that have participated in all three phases: The Coloradoan in Fort Collins, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Standard-Examiner in Ogden and WCPO.
- A Plus, New York (1)
- Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio (2)
- Alaska Public Media, Alaska (3)
- Annenberg Media, California (2, 3)
- Ball State Daily News, Indiana (2)
- CALmatters, California (3)
- Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming (2)
- Cedar Rapids Gazette, Iowa (3)
- Christian Science Monitor, Boston (3)
- Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio (2)
- Coloradoan, Colorado (1, 2, 3)
- Columbia Missourian, Missouri (2)
- Community Impact Newspaper group, Texas (3)
- Dallas Morning News, Texas (2)
- Denver Post, Colorado (2)
- Discourse Media, Canada (3)
- Enid News & Eagle, Oklahoma (1, 3)
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas (1, 2, 3)
- Fresno Bee, California (1, 2)
- Hutchinson News, Kansas (3)
- Jacksboro Herald-Gazette, Texas (2)
- Jefferson City News Tribune, Missouri (3)
- Kansas City Star, Missouri (1, 2)
- KCRG, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (3)
- KLRU-TV, Texas (1)
- KUT, Texas (2)
- Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota (2)
- NBC News, New York (2)
- Newsy, Ohio(1)
- Rains County Leader, Texas (2)
- Religion News Service, Missouri(1)
- San Angelo Standard-Times, Texas (2)
- Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Florida (1)
- Schools Week, London (1)
- Skagit Publishing, Washington (2)
- Springfield News-Leader, Missouri (2)
- St. Louis Magazine, Missouri (1, 2)
- St. Louis Public Radio, Missouri (2)
- Standard-Examiner, Utah (1, 2, 3)
- Steamboat Pilot & Today, Colorado (2)
- Tennessean, Nashville (3)
- The Day, Connecticut (3)
- The Evergrey, Washington (2)
- The Hechinger Report, New York (3)
- The Lima News, Ohio (2)
- The State, South Carolina (3)
- USA TODAY, Virginia (2, 3)
- Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk (3)
- WCNC, North Carolina (3)
- WCPO-TV, Ohio (1, 2, 3)
- WDET-FM, Michigan (2)
- WITF Public Media, Pennsylvania (3)
- WUSA, Washington DC (3)
The Trusting News project, staffed by Joy Mayer and Lynn Walsh, 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 Knight Foundation and Democracy Fund.