October 9, 2018

Twenty leading news organizations have joined an effort to increase transparency and trust in the news media, showing how they collect the news and work to provide accuracy and balance, the Trust Project announced today.

Newcomers to the Trust Project include Bay Area News Group, CBC News, Heavy.com, Sky News, The Toronto Star, TEGNA, Voice of Orange County, Italy's Corriere della Sera and Il Sole 24, Spain's El Pais and Greece's Kathimerini. The BBC, the Washington Post, Mic, the Economist, the German news agency DPA and Italy's La Stampa and La Repubblica were among early adopters.

The announcement raises to 120 the number of news sites worldwide using the transparency standard for news, and dozens more are in the works.

It's important for news organizations to show readers the work they do to provide good journalism, that "there is a mission behind journalism," said Sally Lehrman, head of the Trust Project.

Lehrman said research has shown the public appreciates knowing: a) Who's behind the organization? b) What are its commitments? c) How is journalism better than all this random information we get? and d) That the organization is dedicated to providing links to fact-checking, ethics and corrections policies.

Platforms such as Facebook have used Trust Project research and indicators in working on news indexing. Google, Bing, Nuzzel and PEN America also are using them to surface, display or better label journalism on their platforms.

One study by The Mirror Group found an 8 percent rise in trust among its readers after adopting Trust Project indicators. Lehrman told me that is significant in her hopes that companies will see that best practices are more than a moral responsibility. "There's a monetization, I hope, component."

In this era of attacks against the media, such a project is urgent, said Craig Newmark, one of its funders. "News outlets want to make a statement, a credible statement, that they can be trusted,” Newmark told me. “We need a Better Business Bureau, the equivalent of Consumer Reports (for journalism), but the first step is for a news outlet to come out credibly and say, ‘Hey, you can trust us.’”

How does one company use trust indicators?

I asked Cory Haik, publisher of Mic and my former colleague at the Washington Post, to run me through how it's done.

Q. How long has Mic been involved in the Trust Project?

We were launch participants, so we got involved pre-launch in April 2017 and launched with the first group of publishers last fall. We were working on a similar project at Mic, and were thrilled when the Trust Project approached us. 

Q. How does it use Trust principles?

We use markup code (which is invisible to humans!) and UX (which humans interact with!), so there are properties made available in the code of our articles, plus user-facing features that provide helpful information such as who the reporter is and how the story was reported. Very simple but incredibly helpful features that give better overall context to the story the user is reading. 

Q. How did it insert them (the principles) into the workflow?

We've built and maintain our own CMS, so we added the properties as part of our normal editorial workflow. Some of those principles include: ethics policy, corrections policy, fact-checking standards, anonymous sourcing policy. In many cases we had to spend time firming these policies up and publishing them, which we mostly have done as a part of our detailed editorial guidelines and style guide, both linked here. 

Q. Reaction? Gains?

User interviews showed strong reaction to some of the feature, e.g. list of sources consulted and more information about the author. In terms of quantitative gains, the Trust Project's recent survey stands up to what we are seeing, as well as early data.

Here's a look at the trust indicators and information on collaborating with the project.

Quick hits

NEW THIS MORNING: During the four Sundays in November, HBO will run an Axios show that looks ahead to the week to come. “AXIOS” is a partnership between the news organization and HBO Documentary Films. It will air at 6:30 p.m. EST.

OMAHA PAPER VOTES TO UNIONIZE: Monday’s 71-5 vote by the staff of The Omaha World-Herald makes it the first Nebraska paper to unionize, officials said. “Our overwhelming vote really just reinforces what we’ve always had here — a dedicated group of journalists committed to the future of Nebraska’s best newspaper," said Todd Cooper, a World-Herald reporter for 21 years and a leader of the effort with the NewsGuild. Some reporters, the organizers say, have gone a decade without a raise. The paper is owned by BH Media Group, a part of billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Group.

SPEAKING OF: A Pew study finds college-educated newsroom employees average about $51,000 a year, less than a national average of $59,000 a year for college-educated workers. 

A BRIDGE TOO FAR?: It seems like too much to cover the world’s rapidly and fundamentally changing climate amid Kavanaugh and Trump tweets, but journalists must prioritize, Margaret Sullivan writes. She quotes Philip Gourevitch, best known for chronicling Rwanda’s swift slide into genocide, as saying: “Every issue we devote attention to other than climate change is really a secondary issue.”

‘IT WAS THE CHILDREN WHO BROKE THE SILENCE’: No one would talk about it, and the school board wouldn’t let worried parents address it at a recent meeting. But a Missouri weekly’s reporter found out about reports of older members of a middle school football team sexually assaulting younger members with a pipe, a metal rod and a bolt. Three students were arrested, the Edina Sentinel reported. (h/t Jacqui Banaszynski)

CNN REPORTER TARGETED: A GOP group unearthed tweets by Kaitlan Collins, at 19, in which the now-CNN White House reporter referred to a “fag” and being uncomfortable around lesbians. Collins apologized for the 7-year-old tweets and said her views have changed dramatically since then, Erik Wemple reported.

GOOGLE+ BEING SHUT DOWN: Google made the announcement after a privacy breach, which it kept secret from its users for months. Google acknowledged that the bug, patched in March, possibly affected hundreds of thousands of user profiles on the perennially disappointing social network. The news came as the dominant social network, Facebook, introduced a $200 video chat camera called Portal for, as the Washington Post put it, “the people who still trust Facebook.”

FIRED: Longtime Dallas Mavericks team photographer Danny Bollinger, after sexual harassment allegations, Sports Day reports. (h/t Doris Truong)

REVOLVING DOOR: Ex-Trump official Hope Hicks will join FOX as communications chief. … Eric Ulken, formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Los Angeles Times, is headed to Gannett’s product team to head up development of newsroom tools. … Rachel Metz, an MIT Technology Review senior editor, is leaving to cover AI, VR and AR for CNN Business in San Francisco. (Correction: I'd originally said Hope Hicks is going to FoxNews instead of the new FOX, the parent company to FOX News, FOX Business Network, FOX Sports, FS1 and FOX Broadcast.)

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