The Trust Project
Joe Tone ’01 is a veteran newspaper reporter and editor who recently published his first book, Bones: Brothers, Horses, Cartels and the Borderland Dream, the true story of two brothers living lives on either side of the US Mexico border whose lives converge in a criminal conspiracy.
What did your time as a The Santa Clara journalist teach you about the importance of trust and transparency in journalism?
As editor of the paper, I learned, in the form of letters and phone calls, the impact our words had on the lives of students and other community members—my first introduction into the power of Fourth Estate. This taught me how important it was to constantly build and nurture the trust of our readers and our sources, and to be direct, clear, and honest with them about how and why we were telling our stories.
Did your experience on The Santa Clara inform your future career choice?
Immensely. Before becoming editor, I was considering a career in tech. But the experience of putting out the paper every week—of finding and telling the stories, checking facts, digging up information, and literally driving it to the printer in the dark each week—was thrilling and addictive. And it felt more important than anything I could do in tech. Of course, I couldn't know then that tech would devour and then become the media. Regardless, since TSC, I've never wanted to do anything else.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in delivering quality journalism today?
We are undergoing a profound shift in how people receive and consume information about their community and the wider world. As that shift happens, the institutions we have relied on for decades—newspapers, especially, but also local TV news and other mediums—are being replaced by social media channels that make little distinction between news, opinion, entertainment, propaganda, and other content. That lack of distinction is muddling the information marketplace and eroding what used to be its bedrock: a widely agreed upon set of facts gathered by reliable news outlets. Without that, political operators can easily manipulate consumers into drifting toward political poles, shutting out competing viewpoints, and squashing meaningful discussion about how to improve lives.