5 ways to add trust to content while covering COVID-19

By Katalina Deaven

Center for Media Engagement

Austin, Texas, USA


Coronavirus updates are coming in constantly, and your newsroom resources are likely strained as you try to keep staff safe and healthy. Our team at the Center for Media Engagement hopes to help by sharing our research-backed ideas so you can connect with your audience.

1. Use proven trust techniques in your reporting


We know readers and journalists alike think newsrooms could be more transparent. During times of upheaval, it’s especially important that readers and viewers think of you as a news source they can trust. Adding story features that help them understand the reporting process can offer clarity and build a sense of trust.


Use these trust indicators in your reporting. As outlined in the study we conducted with the Trust Project, these features are shown to increase trust:

  • Provide journalist bios.
  • Use story labels like news, analysis, opinion, or sponsored content.
  • Include footnotes within the article text that offers source material.
  • Add a section to your article describing how and why the story was reported.

As mentioned, try adding a box laying out how and why a news organisation chose to cover a story. Reporters should already have the information from the news-gathering process, making it a fast and easy addition to your story that can help readers understand the news process.

Our research with Trusting News shows that taking this step can increase trust. The box can include information like where reporters gathered information and how the reporter took steps to be fair. Take a look at this example.

2. Use this quiz tool as an easy, interactive way to share information.


Adding quizzes to your coronavirus coverage allows readers to get updates in a new and interactive way. Seeing the quiz results can also help you identify potential stories and pinpoint information that may need to be shared more broadly.

Our research shows using quizzes on your site can help users learn, make your site more enjoyable, and increase time on your site.


The quiz creator is free and offers a step-by-step guide for creating quizzes and embedding them on your news site. Use this link to sign up and get access to your dashboard, which lets you track the response rate of your quizzes and create A/B tests to see which quizzes are most effective.

3. Think about what your audience wants to know — and make sure you provide it.


Your readers and viewers are trying to navigate a constant flood of new coronavirus information. Have your newsroom be the one they can count on to answer their pressing questions.


Asking your audience for feedback is a great way to invite them into the story process and ensure that you’re providing the coverage they want. If you need somewhere to start, here are a few of our research-based recommendations:

  • Provide plenty of context in stories, give background information, and link to previous coverage.
  • Explain key terminology, especially government or scientific terms that readers may not fully understand.
  • Place key information upfront or in a box within the story.
  • Include a wide range of relevant sources.

Don’t assume your audience has read or viewed your previous coverage. Try to make sure each story is thorough and provides links or directs viewers to previous coverage so people feel like they can get all the answers they need.

4. Avoid clickbait headlines and content.


We know your newsroom is trying to find ways to stand out in a sea of coronavirus coverage. But using headlines or stories that may be considered clickbait can hurt the credibility of your news organisation.

This type of coverage can also help feed the narrative of “fake news.” Our research shows how clickbait coverage can backfire in the context of political headlines and stories, however the lessons may still apply for other topics.


We don’t have hard-and-fast rules for you, but keep in mind that your readers and viewers, much like you, are worried about their health and the health of their loved ones. Don’t use this an opportunity to get viewers or Web clicks by using scare tactics or misleading headlines, promotions, or stories.

5. Use solutions journalism in your stories.


Solutions journalism can make people feel more informed, optimistic, and engaged about an issue. At a time when the news cycle is bleak, providing coverage focused on solutions, not just problems, can help your audience see the positive. Our research shows in-depth story coverage can also improve how people view the quality of your coverage.


We suggest newsrooms cover five core components of solutions journalism:

  1. Problem: The causes and symptoms of the issue.
  2. Solution: The replicable ideas tied to solving the problem.
  3. Implementation: The how-to details of putting the solution into action.
  4. Results: The data-based or anecdotal progress made while working toward a solution.
  5. Insights: The teachable, big-picture lessons that can be learned beyond one particular solution or situation.

Solutions journalism is a great way to help counter feelings that news is overwhelmingly negative. The topic might be serious, but showing that there are solutions at play can be a great source of comfort for your readers and viewers.

About Katalina Deaven

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