local media insider

How does your media rate against these eight indicators of media trust?


Think of the Trust Project’s 8 indicators as a kind of “checklist” of best practices for newsrooms.  

Approved media who agree to these disclosures are required to place the trademarked  “T” on stories, although not all of them do. “We didn’t enforce it at first,” Lehrman says.   

The indicators are close to - but not exactly like -  the newsroom standards taught to reporters. 

 The first step in creating the Trust Project was to codify what legitimate news actually is, and get the public involved in this discussion. 

“We came out of the world of journalism. So we had been talking about this for 15 years. 

“We decided that we should stop talking to ourselves and start talking to the public .. about what they value in the news. When they trust it what causes them not to trust it. “ 

The team used the survey  - plus their own ethical standards -  to create the eight indicators,  which were also used as a starting point by Newsguard, a private company that provides a red or green nutritional label on media companies, based on a point score. 

So these eight areas are based largely on the survey rather than journalistic traditions. See how many your company follows: 

1. Best practices

  • Disclosing ownership
  • Posting journalistic standards and ethics
  • Disclosing  what happens to a journalist who has a conflict of interest 
  • 2. Journalistic expertise
  • Using bylines
  • Giving information on journalists including contact information, background, and areas of expertise
  • Type of work
  • Labeling news, opinion, explainers, analysis, and sponsored content 

3. Citations and reference

  • Disclosing sources of information
  •  Access to original materials for  longer investigative stories

4. Methods

  • Statements of value to show what stories are a priority
  • - For investigative stories, the inclusion of why you pursued the topic 

Disclosure of how you investigated the topic

6. Locally sourced

  • Journalists know the community and reporting is done on the scene
  • - There is evidence of deep knowledge of local situation and community 

7. Diverse voices

  • Newsroom shows efforts of commitment to diverse perspectives across social and demographic differences
  • - Communities are not “missing” or included only in a cliched way

8. Actionable feedback 

  • What does the newsroom do to engage the community in identifying issues, help hold leaders accountable, and ensure accuracy
  • Can feedback provoke, alter or expand a story?  

To boil this down further into  a few action items,  start with these: 

Labeling.  Create some color-coded  labels for  hew analysis, branded content, and opinion seem to be easiest for readers to identify

Add links to the resumes of journalists authoring stories

Go heavy on local sourcing and references for information D

In the about us area, disclose more information:  conflict of interest policies,  sourcing standards, values that guide story selection, ways for the community to give feedback and other journalistic standards  Have an action-oriented diversity strategy.

Show extra information on how the story was gathered for longer investigative pieces.  In other words, if reporters interviewed 30 local people for a story, share that information. It builds trust! 

Sally Lehrman, founder of the Trust Project has written  about her vision in an article published by  the Atlantic, that gives a better idea of how the audience feels about having these indicators: 

“Imagine you encountered a piece of text or video in your social media newsfeed or while searching for news on your phone or computer. It would be marked clearly as news, opinion, or sponsored content designed to sell you something. If you clicked on the byline, you’d see the author’s background and other published work. Did that person have local expertise? Experience and knowledge covering the topic? 

“Another click would take you to information about the news site itself. What commitments has it made to ethics, diversity, correcting mistakes? Who owns or funds the site, who is the leadership, when was it created?” 

This is an idea whose time has come, and worth implementing before it's gone.  The days of telling the public what happened and expecting them to believe every word is over. Facebook changed all that, and Q finished it off. 

Instead, these indicators allow the media to give their audience more control. 

“We are not going to tell you what to trust. What we are going to do -  in the grand tradition of journalism  - is provide you the information and let you decide” Lehrman said. 

“You may care about ethics and not about ownership,” Lehrman. “It’s partly about education, but it's also about empowerment. That is the bigger word. We invite {the public} to hold us accountable.”