Establishing oneself as a trusted source of information is a critical component of success for a news outlet, especially as misinformation and disinformation proliferates online.
During INMA’s recent Newsroom Innovation Master Class, media leaders shared how their companies are working to reinforce a relationship of trust with readers.
Reporters Sans Frontières creates the Journalism Trust Initiative
The RSF is, Bruttin explained, historically an organisation dedicated to press freedoms — its best-known publication is the annual World Press Freedom Index Map, which measures the level of press freedom in 180 countries. The organisation has evolved from simply reporting on press freedom to “the promotion and defence of free and independent journalism,” he said.
“We wondered how we could measure the reliability of the press, engaging with media executives and newsrooms, to promote best practices within newsrooms,” he said. In 2018, along with multiple other stakeholders, RSF launched the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI).
There are three stages to the JTI project:
- Adoption by news publications and news media.
- Having a self-assessment tool for media organisations.
- Securing incentives for media organisations that participate in the project.
Of course it’s extremely important at any time to be able to distinguish between what is journalism and what is not, but Bruttin said that it’s especially important during a time of crisis. Having said that, he emphasised that while “part of the JTI project is partly media criticism,” it’s not based on content.
“It’s different from blacklisting disinformation sources,” he said. “This is about whitelisting, promoting the best and best practices in journalism.”
NewsGuard makes journalism more trustworthy
As trust in media continues faltering, NewsGuard is among the organisations that have stepped up to help readers navigate the news. Gordon Crovitz, co-CEO of the company, explained that NewsGuard was created five years ago to help fight misinformation online.
As more people began getting their news through social media, Crovitz said it was important to help consumers by offering information about various news sources.
To date, NewsGuard has rated more than 35,000 sources, of which 9,500 are Web sites. “The others are social media accounts, YouTube channels, podcasts, and other media,” he explained. It operates in 10 countries, and Crovitz said it has rated all of the news and information sources that account for 95% of engagement in those countries.
The work it is doing is helping make journalism more trustworthy, Crovitz said. “More than 2,000 [news sources] have made some changes to their practises after engaging with our analysts.” The most common change is to add more transparency criteria.
“Even very established news organisations like Reuters and Fortune and the Times of London made added disclosures after engaging with us.”
Now, brands use NewsGuard’s data to determine where to advertise and what to avoid. News media companies — including The Economist — include their NewsGuard scores on their Web sites.
“Of course we’re delighted when high score sites do this,” Crovitz said. “If it makes it easier to differentiate trustworthy sites from untrustworthy sites and help people generate revenues, that is a great use of our work.”
The Trust Project outlines trust indicators
Making trustworthy journalism stand out is the idea behind The Trust Project. The Trust Project brings together different news organisations around the globe to promote transparency, accuracy, inclusion, and fairness to help news consumers make informed decisions about their news choices.
Sally Lehrman, author of the INMA report How News Brands are Rebuilding Trust, founded The Trust Project when she began asking herself how technology could help enhance trustworthiness in news instead of bringing it down.
“When I came up with this idea of trust indicators, people were sceptical,” Lehrman said. “People just didn’t like the term. First of all, they thought, what does that mean? They didn’t think it was possible. They thought how could I possibly get news organisations behind the idea?”
Now Lehrman is seeing the term “trust indicators” being used regularly and news organisations being very clear and intentional about where news is coming from, how it’s being researched and reported, and why.
“The Trust Project started as a collaboration among journalists,” Lehrman said. “We had technology platforms collaborating with us from the very beginning, never dictating where we should go, but always we would consult with them and they would consult with us. And we’ve also brought in the advertising community.”
Henneo taps into The Trust Project to enhance credibility
Ignacio Martínez de Albornoz Tarongi, director of business development at Henneo, and Álex Herrera Díaz, subdirector of Henneo title 20Minutos, discussed the critical aspect of trust in media organisations during the recent INMA Newsroom Innovation Master Class.
“We saw the need to reinforce the credibility of our recently acquired publications (and in general all of the news industry) and launched a project to use The Trust Project’s indicators,” Martínez de Albornoz Tarongi said. “It was a good instrument to build credibility for our brands.”
Of the three case studies from The Trust Project, the team from Henneo shared one in particular. Faced with internal and external transformations, including a lack of defined personality, 20Minutos aimed to increase reader trust, become a recognisable brand, and enter Spain’s top five newspapers.
This was achieved by reorienting their editorial focus, adopting The Trust Project’s standards, and adapting their technological priorities. These efforts resulted in a significant increase in readership and credibility, with 20Minutos ranking first in the GfK DAM ranking in 2022 and being recognised by the Reuters Institute in 2023.