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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Sally Lehrman

Sally Lehrman

Senior Director, Journalism Ethics Program, and Director, Trust Project

Sally Lehrman, senior director of the journalism ethics program at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, leads its signature Trust Project, a complex international collaboration that she began building in 2015 to strengthen public confidence in the news through accountability and transparency. The consortium, which involves about 75 news organizations, has created a set of digital standards called “Trust Indicators” to help identify and surface high quality reporting from reliable news sites. She provides vision and strategy, guiding the effort as it develops the news industry’s first-ever transparency standards for users to see and machines to read, also overseeing collaborative implementation and scaling among newsrooms around the world.

Major news distribution platforms including Google, Facebook and Bing are external partners to  the effort and piloting ideas about how to best to use the Trust Indicators in search results, news feeds and display on user screens.

Lehrman is an award-winning reporter on medicine, biotechnology and science policy. Her honors include a 2002 Peabody Award, Peabody/Robert Wood Johnson Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Programming, and Columbia/Du Pont Silver Baton (The DNA Files); the SPJ Wells Key (the Society of Professional Journalists' highest honor); various other reporting and writing awards; and the John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University. Byline credits include Scientific American, Nature, Health,, Natural Medicine, The Boston Globe, The New York Times,, and The DNA Files, distributed by NPR.

She is author of “News in a New America,” a fresh take on developing an inclusive U.S. news media, and chapters for textbooks on covering the sciences. Currently she is co-editing Reporting Inequality: Tools and methods for covering race and ethnicity, with Venise Wagner of San Francisco State University, and working on Skin Deep: The Search for Race in Our Genes, about the quest to address health disparities, for Oxford University Press.

She has long been involved in evangelizing journalism values, ethics and diversity as a local and national leader in the Society of Professional Journalists and the SDX Foundation, and with other organizations such as the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and the Center for Science and Justice at UC Santa Cruz.

She tweets at @journethics and @bestwrit and is available for speaking engagements and as a workshop facilitator.

Current Projects

Lehrman’s work includes:

  • Through the Trust Project, global engagement with news outlets and technology platforms to collaboratively develop advanced methods to restore the public trust in news and create news transparency and accountability. Her efforts have been featured in outlets such as The Guardian, NPR, The Atlantic, Associated Press, the Verge, USA Today, the BBC, Fox26 and Forbes. The project has received support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Google, the Democracy Fund, the Knight Foundation, and the Markkula Foundation.
  • Employing a human-centered design process that puts public needs and wants at the center of The Trust Project, also engaging with the public to create ways to involve them in the Trust Indicators’ reliability and spread.
  • The Trust Project rolls out in November 2017 with the first ten news outlets representing dozens of news sites. These include major legacy outlets and digital natives in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
  • Reporting Inequality: Tools and methods for covering race and ethnicity, which Lehrman is co-editing with Venise Wagner of San Francisco State University, is to be published by Routledge in 2018 and is currently under review.
  • Overseeing a research and a grants program to support design and innovation around the Trust Indicators.
  • Leading discussion on issues of ethics and trust in the news as a public intellectual through public writing, speaking, and providing media interviews internationally.
  • Convening bi-yearly meetings of the Executive Roundtable on Digital Journalism Ethics, top-level editors, writers, and other digital media leaders.