What’s New at the Trust Project
We aim to restore the trusted role of the press in civic life.
1) Are you trustworthy? Basics stand out.
Teams of news executives across our network have been defining our first set of Trust Indicators. Their goal: to identify the values, policies, and methods that stand behind a trustworthy piece of journalism. Whether they are considering “Original Reporting,” “Best Practices” or some other fundamental, several attributes pop up regularly. What is the author’s expertise? Did that person use confidential sources? Why? Are they diverse? Does the news outlet correct its mistakes? Does it check facts? These basics of trust are emerging: Truth, transparent sourcing, expertise and honesty about errors.
2) Brands still matter. We continue to gather information from the public about what people value in the news, what they find trustworthy, and when their trust has been broken. Faculty members at Southampton Solent University’s School of Business, Law and Communications recently completed 10 interviews with people from a diversity of backgrounds in the London area. Some encouraging themes:
- People tended to be loyal to one or two news sites that had won their trust. They checked these every day.
- At the same time, as in our other interviews, people accessed news in many forms: on a branded site, in social media, through search. They cross-checked one news source against another to build a clearer picture of the news.
- Many viewed non-branded online sites with skepticism, wary of poorly produced rewrites, or “churnalism.”
- Most considered news consumption a civic duty. Some suggested news literacy be taught in schools.
“Many felt the notion of ‘trust verification’ online was extremely valuable,” wrote Graham Bond, who directed the effort, in an email. “There was genuine curiosity, and minimal cynicism.”
3) Bad company can kill your copy. On the downside, interviewers in the U.S. and Europe have been hearing a lot of complaints about those online ads. “The ads make it less credible,” said a data center designer in Phoenix, Ariz. “If these people are willing to take money from (disreputable, low-value advertisers) and associate their message and brand with this,” he explained, it reflects back poorly. A former IT manager in Britain said simply, “intrusive.”
We are moving into the implementation phase to test and roll out elements of a “Trust System.” We’ll have more details for you soon.
Here’s what we’re reading
Gallup’s Trust in Media Returns to All-Time Low
Reuters Institute’s report on legacy media in the digital environment and its Digital News Report 2016’s Trust in the News in More Depth.
Thanks for being part of our effort!
Trust Project and Journalism Program Director, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
The Trust Project develops tools and technologies to signal trustworthy news to audiences and news distribution systems. We are a project of the Markkula Ethics Center’s Executive Roundtable for Digital Journalism Ethics.
In appreciation to our funders: craigconnects.org, Google, and the Markkula Family Foundation.