Who trusts — and pays for — the news? Here’s what 8,728 people told us

This was originally published on the Reynolds Journalism Institute blog

Is there a connection between people’s politics and their trust in news? (Yes.) Do people’s race or age play a factor in what they trust? (Yes on race, less on age.) And do those factors influence how likely people are to spend money on news? (They sure do.)

As part of the Trusting News project, 28 partner newsrooms asked their audiences to tell them about their views on the credibility of news. They published a questionnaire asking their readers, listeners and viewers about their demographics and political leanings, and how many news organizations they support financially.

What we found can offer insight into the general attitudes and beliefs of people toward the value and credibility of news.

About the Trusting News project

The questionnaires were published as part of an interview project. We invited newsrooms to sit down for one-on-one interviews with their own news consumers to discuss how they decide what to trust, and the questionnaires helped those newsrooms find people across a spectrum of diversity  age, race, gender and political leanings  within their communities.

What we’ve learned, from the questionnaires and the interviews, is being used to create strategies newsrooms can adopt to demonstrate their trustworthiness. We’ll share those strategies soon, and we’ll be looking for newsrooms to help us test them.

If you’re interested in how your newsroom can enhance credibility and would like to hear more, please contact us.

In a previous phase of the Trusting News project, newsrooms helped us test ways to build trust on social media. You can read what we learned and search a database of Facebook posts at TrustingNews.org. Read the rest of this entry »


How building trust with news consumers is like dating

This post was first published on the blog of the Reynolds Journalism Institute

Relationships take work. You don’t get intimacy without putting in some time. You don’t ask for favors without offering the equivalent yourself. You earn trust by being there consistently, and by listening.

The Trusting News project is basically a recipe for a genuine, two-way relationship with news consumers, rather than just an exchange of information. Relationships involve caring whether you’re meeting the needs of the other party — and being willing to adjust if you’re not. They involve knowing what people need from you and whether you’re meeting those needs.

The 14 newsrooms that helped test social strategies for building trust found that what’s true in real-life relationships is also true on Facebook. If you want users’ attention, loyalty and time, you have to earn it. If you want them to open up to you and speak well of you, you need to show you deserve it.

To see authentic engagement done well, browse these posts from The Fresno (Calif.) Bee, the Enid (Okla.) News & Eagle and the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah.

Here are four rules from dating that apply to journalists who want better relationships with their communities. Read the rest of this entry »


Ideas worth stealing: These strategies will help journalists earn news consumers’ trust

A project I’m so excited about is launching today! Here’s the blog post that’s up over at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, announcing the existence of TrustingNews.org.

How do people decide what news is trustworthy? How can journalists influence what users consume and share on social media? And in the era of fake stories, when untruths often travel faster than the truth, what can credible journalists do to stand out?

rjilogobigWhen we began the Trusting News project in January 2016, we had no idea how the presidential campaign would evolve. We didn’t know the intentional spread of false information would play an even larger role in the information climate. We didn’t know Facebook’s algorithm would move toward favoring posts shared by individuals over those shared by pages, making it all the more important that news consumers help spread our content.

We just knew the issue of reclaiming the credibility of journalism was worthy of focused attention.

We started by identifying strategies used by other industries to build trust. We learned from people immersed in issues like patient-physician trust, nonprofit storytelling and corporate transparency. We read research on trust and accuracy from a variety of perspectives. We also talked to working journalists about where they saw the biggest gaps.

We turned what we learned into strategies we wish journalists would employ to use social media to build trust. Then, with the help of 14 news outlets, we tested those strategies and tracked how users responded. What we’ve learned can help journalists influence what the public chooses to engage with and pass along.

The biggest takeaway is that across the strategies, successful posts anticipated users’ needs, moods and motivations. They met people where they were. They demonstrated that journalists knew who they were talking to and how to best invite interaction.

Read the key findings, go deep on which strategies worked and search a database of almost 500 Facebook posts at TrustingNews.org.

Read the rest of this entry »


Social Gators: Tim Kaine rally offered surprise coverage during UF engagement class

I taught my first class at the University of Florida this weekend. It was a one-credit class in audience engagement, taught in a bootcamp style over one weekend.

Our last four hours together on Sunday were supposed to be about how journalists measure success — dotcom metrics, social metrics and impact measurement. But then an opportunity to do social journalism arose, and it’s just not in my nature to pass up the chance to get students into the field.

Tim Kaine held a rally directly outside the UF journalism school on Sunday afternoon, and I scrapped the last chunk of my class agenda and instead deployed the 17 students to do social coverage.

Nine students went to the rally to do social-first coverage. They told a variety of stories from the field, publishing to Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Eight students stayed in our newsroom/classroom, aggregating and curating posts from the rest of the team, searching for other community posts and fact-checking.

Lauren Rowland took the lead on a live blog on Storify. Her file was live as soon as our coverage started, and she updated continually for about two hours. Producing a live blog takes constant attention to searching and filtering. Jessica Small, Catie Flatley and Zoë Sessums spent their time finding, transcribing and funneling content into the various curations.

Carolina Lafuente took a different approach to social curation. Her Storify published after the event was over. While Lauren’s provided minute-by-minute updates, Carolina’s walked readers through just the highlights of the afternoon chronologically. Emanuel Griffin also collected highlights of the day’s social coverage, but he did it on Medium. Read the rest of this entry »


An analytics question: What are your readers *not* reading?

I’m sure most people in your newsroom could provide examples of some of your most-read stories. The one that got shared hundreds or thousands of times. The one that got linked from Google News. The one that keeps finding new audience, months after it originally published.

To be sure, there’s benefit in celebrating your wild successes.

But I think there might be more useful knowledge gained by spending time at the other end of metrics report. What coverage are you investing in that isn’t finding an audience?

Low readership numbers can be due to a lot of things:

  • Maybe a story was published at an awkward time and was pushed too quickly off its section page front.
  • Maybe the headline didn’t do it justice.
  • Maybe it didn’t get effectively (or at all) published to social platforms.
  • Maybe there’s a built-in audience for the story that would love it but just didn’t find it, and some outreach would be worthwhile. (Related post: Who’s the story’s audience?)
  • Maybe people got everything they needed from the social post or excerpt on the home page and didn’t feel compelled to click for more information.
  • And maybe the subject just didn’t interest your readers.

Regardless of which answer applies, don’t you want to know what you’re investing staff time in that is hardly getting seen? So you could then do something differently?

At times of such intense staffing shortages, wouldn’t you love to use data to know what you can stop doing?

Read the rest of this entry »


Race project wins community service award

Is there any better compliment to the work of journalists than to say it was a community service?

Not in my world.

I just learned that one of my last community outreach team’s big projects at the Columbia Missourian won a community service award in the Missouri Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest. (Here’s the Missourian story about its 56 awards.)

During my last semester with the Missourian, the University of Missouri campus was going through a time of intense turmoil, and the issue of race was at the heart of it. A student’s hunger strike, the resignations of the top officials, regular protests, a free speech debate — and in the middle of it all was a newsroom staffed by Mizzou students and run by Mizzou journalism faculty, trying to figure out how we could best be of service and help draw connections.

The duties of my community outreach team had never been more needed. We used every tool in our toolbox to monitor the mood and needs of the community. We wanted to know what they wanted to know, but we also sought to discover what was making them feel mad, hopeful, scared or disconnected. We hosted and participated in conversations, and we did a lot of listening.

Read the rest of this entry »


Create a document to plan your social posts

UPDATED 10/5/16: Scroll down for a sample social media plan from Colorado Public Radio.

In a Poynter class I’m teaching, we’ve been talking about the need to be strategic about how we produce our social channels.

It’s not enough to react to today’s news. We need to think about the mix of content. We need to share what we know people are talking about today, not just what our newsrooms feel like producing today. We need to share certain stories at certain times.

We need to think about what we published yesterday, last week or six months ago that might have new relevance today, and come up with a system to plan ahead for those posts.

Some of us also have lots of people jumping in and out of social posting in our newsrooms. It can be tough to know who’s in charge of which stories, which hours and which days.

To manage all that, we need a document that looks further ahead than today’s news budget. I came up with a document that worked well in the newsroom of the Columbia Missourian, and I cleaned it up for public sharing.

Here is my sample social media planning doc, in case it’s useful for anyone else.

And if you have one you’d be willing to share, will you send it to me? I love peeking in on other peoples’ work systems. It gives me the same excitement as new school supplies, or pictures of home offices. Ahh, productivity.

UPDATE:

I’m doing some work with Colorado Public Radio, and I was so impressed with the social media planning docs created by their social media manager, Leslie Smail.

Here is their template in a Google spreadsheet.

Here’s what Leslie wrote about how CPR uses the template. (I’ve seen it in play for a specific project, with multiple staff members using it to share ideas, plan and edit behind each other.)

  • The overview tab is a basic gantt chart that we use to map out the different stories we’re putting out and some high level steps and deadlines along the way. The calendar to the right of those tasks is just a visual high level view of what’s happening over the month and in what order.
  • The other tabs are for each social media channel we’re on and maps out exactly how many posts we want for the month, and the dates and times, which we’ve determined based on when we get the highest engagement rates for particular days of the week and times of day, so adjust this for your particular audience. For subsequent months, just add more rows. This planning doc shows how we planned out a particular reporting project, in which we aimed to tweet 3x a day about our coverage, post on Facebook 2-3x/week and on Instagram 2x/week. This will obviously vary for your particular project and I would encourage you to use this as a master planning doc to plan out ALL social media posts, not just for a particular project.
  • Here’s a breakdown of the different columns and how they’re used:
    • Owner: If multiple people are working with this planning doc, assign who is responsible for each post
    • Date: Pretty self explanatory. This column is formatted so that if you just type in “10/5” for example, it will auto format to say “Wed-10/5” or you can double click in the cell and a calendar will pop up if you want to change a date that way.
    • Time: We say AM, Noon, and PM as shorthand for morning, afternoon and evening, trying to give pretty equal coverage to all times of the day, or you can adjust this if you see much more engagement for a particular time of day
    • Type of content: This is a helpful way to make sure you are tracking how often you talk about different stories or are testing different strategies. Types of content could include video, questions, quotes, photo galleries, etc. This way you can sort by a particular content type and make sure you are varying the type of content you put out on social media.
    • Message: This is where you draft the actual posts. Column J tracks the character count and is also color coded from green to yellow to red to tell you the optimal post length, which you can adjust by right clicking and clicking “conditional formatting”
    • URL: Put the link to include in the post
    • Notes: We use this to remind people of particular hashtags or handles to include.
    • Image: If you want to use media that isn’t included in a link, we link to a file path on our internal server, so that we have a record of where media (videos/images) are and aren’t emailing them back and forth

Thanks for sharing the doc, Leslie! Anyone else have one to share? I’d be thrilled to keep updating this post. Reach me here.