Audience Engagement Guest Columns
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Three examples of publisher innovation to build audience transparency and trust

A project of the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and American Press Institute (API), Trusting News trains journalists to actively earn trust through transparency and engagement. In short, it explores how to incorporate trust-building into journalism’s practices. In this feature, Trusting News’ Lynn Walsh takes a look at the development of three tools to foster greater trust and transparency.

Through the Leap innovation training program, The International Center for Journalists and Trusting News challenged journalists to answer this single question: What can we build to increase trust in journalism now — and ensure misinformation and polarization do not find a foothold in future spaces?

After 10 weeks of collaboration, nearly 40 journalists from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America designed, prototyped and developed some answers to that question. Here are three standout examples from the program:

Transparency Layer from Vox

The idea: Create products that add a transparency layer to the news organization’s website with the goal of building trust and engagement with the Vox community. The transparency elements include author bios, participation callouts, and beat memos on how coverage decisions are made. The team is working to make the elements enhance the user experience on the website by thinking carefully about placement and the functionality of the elements. The journalists are also working to make the elements automatically added to stories instead of having to be added by reporters and editors.

How it could help build trust: Through our research we know transparency elements within stories build trust. We have also learned the easier the elements are to include in stories the more likely they are to be added. By thinking carefully about placement, workability and how these elements fit into the reporting process, the team is taking what we know about adding transparency elements and trust and creating opportunities for improving how and where news organizations include these elements while increasing the likelihood of users seeing them and journalists using them.

Who was involved: Ryan Gantz, Marcus Haddon, Susannah Locke, Jacqué Palmer, Daniel Shannon

LAE Solutions

The idea: Create an embed code that immerses seamlessly in a news organization’s web platform that allows journalists to easily listen to their communities. The code invites feedback from users while creating an internal newsroom system where journalists can easily sort and organize what is being submitted, show what they have responded to and distinguish between useful and irrelevant content.

The tool also allows the community member to follow along as their comment is submitted, reviewed by a journalist, being considered by a journalist for a story and possibly be contacted by the journalist for involvement in the story. “Imagine if a tip line took you through the journey of a news story,” Nelly Kalu said while describing the potential for the tool.

How it could help build trust: We are learning that if you involve people in the news process, peel back the curtain on how it works and listen to what thoughts and ideas they have about news and information you have an opportunity to build trust and a relationship.

Who was involved: Branislava Lovre, Gulsin Harman, Nelly Kalu, Rosakebia Liliana Estela Mendoza

The Informed NRI from The NRI Nation

The idea: Create a WhatsApp-based interactive media literacy tool to fight the misinformation that targets the global Indian diaspora. NRI will launch the project with a five-day-long newsletter covering topics that will help users spot false information. The team plans to build an audience by creating the content in English and other regional languages. After they are able to provide educational information to help people detect misinformation they will ask the community to send questionable posts and possible misinformation to be fact-checked while training the community on how to be fact-checkers themselves.

How it could help build trust: Consuming information is often a frustrating and confusing experience for people. By helping them better navigate the information space (through media literacy and education) journalists are making the experience more enjoyable, useful and less frustrating. People can then see journalists as reliable, informative and credible, all of which are attributes of trust.

Who was involved: Roy Mathew, Nikita Roy, Ibtesham Sarmar

Lynn Walsh (Twitter: @lwalsh)
Assistant Director, Trusting News

These, and further examples from this initiative, were first published on Trusting News’ Medium page. Re-published with kind permission.

Trusting News, a project of RJI and API, trains and empowers journalists to take responsibility for demonstrating credibility and actively earning trust through transparency and engagement. In a continual cycle of research, learning and sharing with the industry, Trusting News explores how to incorporate trust-building into journalism’s standards and practices. The team is available to support journalists and you can reach out at, on Twitter, or on Facebook