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. Continue reading “Who trusts — and pays for — the news? Here’s what 8,728 people told us”

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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. Continue reading “How building trust with news consumers is like dating”

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.

Continue reading “Ideas worth stealing: These strategies will help journalists earn news consumers’ trust”

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.

Continue reading “Race project wins community service award”

When it comes to our communities, are journalists “casual” or “hardcore” gamers?

I’m helping organize a Poynter summit on audience engagement. (It’s Aug. 29 in New York, and you should grab one of the remaining seats!) One of the panels will look at inclusion as it relates to community work. In a planning call this week, the speakers (the amazing Anika Gupta, Andrew Haeg and Michelle Ferrier) asked questions like:

  • Who are we engaging with?
  • Who do we WISH we were engaging with?
  • Why do we think people will want to engage with us? What would their motivation be?
  • Does our interest in our communities feel authentic or self-serving?

The conversation has me chewing on some overlaps between community journalism and gaming or other niche communities.

Join me in mulling over this question: How does it feel when newbies (noobs in gaming vernacular) dive into something you know a lot about, overestimate how much they really know, mischaracterize your culture or truth and don’t seem to care or even be aware?

Continue reading “When it comes to our communities, are journalists “casual” or “hardcore” gamers?”

Beyond consumption: What do you hope news consumers will do?

When people ask what I do, I can answer a lot of different ways. Engagement, after all, means a lot of things.

I found myself yesterday morning reverting to what might be my favorite description, though. In a conversation with Brian Ries, engagement editor at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, about strategies his newsroom might try, we discussed how it all comes down to invitations.

What are you inviting your users to do?

The default answer usually comes down to consumption. Most of our communication efforts with readers/listeners/viewers/followers have two things in common:

  1. The goal is to get as many people as possible to click/read/listen/watch the journalism we have produced.
  2. They efforts are not specifically targeted but instead are a mass invitation to anyone whose attention we can get.

It’s not hard to move beyond that, but it does take a shift in mindset.

Audience-focused, engaged journalism wants more than consumption. It wants participation. Criticism. Discussion. Collaboration. Empowerment.

Continue reading “Beyond consumption: What do you hope news consumers will do?”

What have journalists done for you lately?

In the past few days, I’ve consumed a lot of journalism. Some of it is the kind of information that can be found all over the place, from any number of news outlets. Is Florida in for its first tropical storm of the season? What should I know about Hillary Clinton’s email? How’s Serena doing at the French Open?

When you ask people about “journalism” or “the media” (maybe my least-favorite two words of all time), they often think first about these sorts of stories. But “journalism” and even “news” encompass so much more. People consume a lot of journalism without realizing they’re doing it, and certainly without considering the investment needed to produce it. (I wrote more about perceptions of “news” a couple of weeks ago.)

Journalists are justifiably frustrated that people don’t respect where all that information comes from. But complaining doesn’t fix the problem.

Instead, we need to do a better job communicating our value. What makes us credible sources of information? What do we offer that helps people live their lives? Why are we worth peoples’ investment of time and money? (That’s one of the questions at the core of a project I’m working on to do with using social media to build trust.)

Here’s a look at 8 pieces of journalism I’ve consumed in the last few days. Turns out “the media” have helped me understand my world, my country, my community and my family.

  1. Maggie Menderski at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune wrote about a huge development being planned for a spot just 10 minutes from my house. She got the scoop at a retail conference in Las Vegas. Sending her to Nevada represents an investment of manpower and dollars on the part of my local newspaper. Don’t we want journalists keeping an eye on projects that shape our communities’ growth?
  2. Another Herald-Tribune reporter, Shelby Webb, took a deep dive into our local public school district’s rate of expulsions. Sarasota has a higher rate of “expulsion without educational services” than any other district in Florida. That’s a controversial fact that deserves unpacking, and doing so takes massive time. Do you want journalists telling you about how kids in your community are educated?
  3. Jessica Contrera at The Washington Post goes deep with the screen habits of a 13-year-old girl. I eat stories like this up because I love learning about how other people use technology. It’s vital for anyone who produces things consumed on screens. It’s also important for parents trying to keep tabs on kids’ screen use. Stories like this take so much time — finding the right family to work with, gaining trust, earning access and then spending enough time with them that you can authentically represent their lives/habits. Are you interested in journalism to help you understand other peoples’ lives and how the world is changing? (Also, this companion piece about teen jargon is hilarious.)
  4. Continue reading “What have journalists done for you lately?”