Trust comes first

“Listen with the humility you would in any broken relationship you want to repair. And then be willing to make some changes.”

What if journalists put a summary of their sources right at the top of a story?

This suggestion, which recently came out of a Trust Project public workshop, may sound counterintuitive and crazy. Why would we clutter up the top of the page, that valuable real estate, before a reader even gets to the first compelling sentence?

Maybe because people are looking for quick ways to evaluate the worthiness of a story. Maybe because newsrooms should try some radical forms of transparency if they wish to keep their audience — and their role as a trusted source of information in a democracy.

Journalists have been able to move the needle on trust this year. The annual Gallup poll on U.S. confidence in the news has ticked up, reaching its highest point since 2011 after a discouraging dip to an all-time low. I have more of a plea than a prediction. Want to maintain our progress? Then listen. Listen with the humility you would in any broken relationship you want to repair. And then be willing to make some changes.

Leaders from more than 75 news organizations listened to reader insights and collaborated to come up with the Trust Indicators. These disclosures about the site, reporter and story show the due diligence that makes journalism distinct. They offer up information about newsroom standards on ethics, diversity, and corrections. They give details about ownership and who’s on the masthead. Background on the reporter. And more. The Center for Media Engagement studied the Trust Indicators and found that across political persuasion and demographic difference, these transparency standards had an impact. They improved people’s evaluations of the trustworthiness of the news site and qualifications of the reporter.

Newsrooms get the need to build trust and are willing to show their work more clearly than ever. But they hesitate when it comes to the deeper change people say they want. One of the more effective Indicators, the study suggests, is to briefly detail the reporting method and sources. Yet the news sites in our pilot group at first resisted implementing these features. Not due to fear of disclosure, but because they might mean more work for time-pressed reporters and would disrupt the traditional article format and advertising space. Another popular request was for diverse sources. Again, most news sites see the common sense behind inclusive reporting across many differences. But some have paused before making a public commitment. In our workshop, people wanted the Trust Indicators to be more prominent. That’s scary for newsrooms, which have put resources and care into their current display. News executives understand why consistency across news sites offers clarity. Yet some avoid changing their habits of doing certain things, certain ways.

The academic literature exploring when and why we trust information describes trust as a relationship. As the Gallup poll suggests, doubling down on good reporting seems to help. Transparency seems to help. And yet, a good relationship relies on mutual high regard and respect. It requires give-and-take, a willingness to be held accountable and to be responsive. We can rebuild our relationship with the public. To do so, we’ll need to trust the people we want to trust us, and to act boldly on their insights.

Sally Lehrman is a science and medical writer who created and leads the Trust Project.

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Errin Haines Whack   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Jake Levine   The return to now

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Paul Ford   Go global

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Burt Herman   Things get real

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)