“One of the things I appreciated most about the Trusting News project is that Joy takes this big hairy topic of “trust in the media” and breaks it down into actionable steps,” says Sarah Binder, the former community engagement manager at the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
Binder led the newsroom’s partnership with Trusting News in early 2018.
The paper tried out four of the project’s trust-enhancing strategies: explaining your process, telling how you’re different from “the media,” demonstrating balance, and being responsive on all the channels where readers find you.
To demonstrate balance, the paper tweaked its opinion pages by grouping together columns that spoke to the same issue. Online, they linked them so that if you found one, you found the others.
“We were intentional in saying, ‘We value multiple perspectives and balance in the news, and this is our attempt to bring it to you,’” Binder says.
As part of showing that they’re a local paper, not “the media,” the paper made a very direct request for the community to pitch stories to cover.
“That got a ton of great story ideas,” she says. “People chimed in with what they cared about. I was able to take that back to reporters and say, “Have we covered this? Have we thought about it?” That’s a way to show people we’re listening.”
Binder says the newsroom learned to be more intentional about how it interacts with readers, to not take trust for granted but instead try to demonstrate trustworthiness.
“Over time,” she says, “those small steps add up to something bigger.”