New research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism looks into what is contributing to the decline of trust in media and how news organizations are working on rebuilding it.
Building trustSubscribe to Updates Journalism’s trust problem is deep, wide and multifaceted. It can be viewed in three essential categories: the public trust, the trust between news organizations and the trust within each organization itself. Each piece is inextricably connected to the others, and with the entire journalism universe in the midst of an extended upheaval, rebuilding one requires attention to the others.
Big Picture A primer on building trust
Building trust is essential. Start with understanding the issues: Namely, erosion of public trust in journalism, mistrust between news organizations, and fractured trust within newsroom themselves.
Plan Learn more about trust and the media
The Poynter Media Trust Survey found trust in media has increased since last year after having been declining for years, particularly in local news sources.
An oft-cited 2016 Gallup Poll found public trust in journalism at an all-time low, attributing that year’s acceleration of an ongoing decline to the presidential election.
Americans are still very much consumers of news, but their trust levels have plummeted, with the degree of mistrust varying along the lines of political ideology.
A survey conducted with the audiences of more than two dozen newsrooms found greater trust in journalism among more liberal respondents and also among white respondents.
Declining trust is prompting audiences to change their news consumption behavior, including checking multiple news outlets to verify information.
This report, which blends two surveys from the Media Insight Project, describes journalism’s trust problem through the prism of political affiliation.
Do Tactics to help you build trust with your audience, with other news outlets and within your own news operation
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Learn how The Fresno Bee improved engagement with Latino audiences through regional collaboration, experimentation with new story topics, newsletters and virtual events.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Learn how to build trust in the Black community by conducting extensive research, creating products and content that serve this audience, and showing up for the community.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Understand your opportunities for audience growth through research, experimentation and listening. Change your reporting process to focus more on making news for and with local Black communities instead of just about them. At the same time, grow awareness through marketing and outreach, and leverage partnerships to expand your reach and understanding as well as to build trust.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Use several approaches, including audience roundtables, mobile newsrooms and source audits, to rebuild trust and engage with the Black community, whose achievements have often been ignored or downplayed by local news organizations.
Recognize your role as a member of “the media,” lean into complexity and nuance, and get to know the people you aim to serve.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Build trusted relationships with people who have lived without local news sources for years, by showing up for these communities, listening to them and delivering the content they most want. Make sure the coverage is for these communities, not simply about them.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Grow your audience and paid online subscription base by bridging significant gaps in reaching key segments, including Black readers.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: If you want to build trust with your readers, you need to let them see you as more than a two-dimensional byline. The Des Moines Register created an entertainment/lifestyle newsletter – authored by a rotation of staffers, filled with personality and authenticity and focused on the things that bring joy – to help bridge the divide between newsroom and reader.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Improve your news organization’s coverage, audience reach and brand recognition among Black readers by amplifying stories that focus on the Black community.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Local news sites nationwide rely too heavily on law enforcement sources, and crime stories dominate their news coverage. Gannett newsrooms committed to repairing relationships and building trust with members of marginalized communities by rethinking community justice and public safety coverage.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Gannett’s Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee is telling more diverse, authentic stories that are making an impact, thanks to a new audience engagement initiative called the Digital Advisory Group, or “the DAG.” As part of a 2021 pilot, Knox News paired a Facebook group with one-year digital subscription trials to listen to Black voices and earn their trust. The DAG united community members and journalists to engage one another for more authentic content.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Grow your audience — including younger, more diverse readers — by using non-traditional social media platforms to promote stories and establish lines of communication where readers feel like they can interact with a person, not a company.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: By telling and sharing stories in the Latinx community (beginning with the pandemic’s impact on people, families, businesses), you can do what good newsrooms do — reflect the communities they serve.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Don’t just settle for being a publication that covers the African American community. Transform your newsroom into one that tells stories for and with Black residents. Grow relationships and trust, increase the number of African American voices on your platforms and continuously work to reflect the community demographics in your workforce.
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: Deepen your relationship with readers and expand your news coverage of communities with a team of freelancers, creating digital hubs and newsletters to organize and promote coverage.
Retaining members requires trust. It feels basic, but The Correspondent’s missteps in communicating with members appears to have accelerated the sustainability crisis that led to the site’s closure in 2020. The post-mortem has lessons for communicating with members and avoiding the broken promises that spike churn.
Add the voice of the community to your newsroom with valuable lessons from Canopy Atlanta, the Greensboro News & Record, the San Diego Union-Tribune and more.
Perpetuating tropes and sensationalizing disasters in the way we cover them can result in harm for the communities we are trying to serve. Here are some ideas on how to avoid that.
In a post for the Reynolds Journalism Institute, Documented audience editor Nicolás Ríos shares a reminder that “our readers often know more than we do.”
Transparify has changed how inewsource journalists think about reporting and writing stories.
More than 80 media outlets and technology companies are collaborating to debunk misinformation and offer verification training in Argentina.
As more organizations look at digital subscriptions and memberships, impact metrics have become more relevant. So, how can we help journalists track them?
Here’s an idea to steal and adapt: As it expanded into the post-secondary beat, EdNC blitzed all 58 community colleges across North Carolina in one week to build relationships, surface issues, identify sources, and begin building a wholly new audience. You, too, can take the time to really get to know a targeted audience.
This guide summarizes the work of a handful of groups and institutions that are grappling with the trust and journalism question full-time, as well as some potential funding sources and tools in development to support newsrooms interested in providing greater transparency to their audiences.
Honoring this matrix of priority trust indicators and editorial attributes can demonstrate to your audience the trustworthiness of your news organization as well as help distribution platforms find and elevate your work.
The old model of fact-checking, with its focus on individual bits of information, is actually harming trust in journalism and needs to be dramatically shifted to focus on issues instead.
At the heart of the public’s trust in journalism is the relationship between each journalist and the people he or she writes about, a relationship that if given the care, respect and attention it deserves will translate into the finished product.
True crowdsourcing — getting beyond data and traditional methods of reporter-centric journalism and enabling people to share their stories — can build trust by surfacing narratives such as ProPublica’s maternal mortality series that would not be likely come to light any other way.
Three of four Americans give the media credit for keeping public officials from wrongdoing, and that, along with an emphasis on accuracy and accountability, is where journalists who care about building trust should focus their efforts.
A strong marketing campaign that informs your audience about the value of your work can help reinforce a message of trustworthiness.