Transparency is the antidote to fake news

“The problem is massive, and these are just first steps. I hope that in the year to come, media outlets and tech platforms alike will take bigger ones.”

In the coming year, we’ll see continuing tension between the public and the press over what’s “real” and what’s not. With the president calling journalists in the mainstream media “a stain on America,” it’s safe to say that the “fake news” conversation will persist — and that attacks on the press will, too. It all means that news organizations will have to keep fighting for the trust of a skeptical public, coming up with ways to demonstrate our credibility across all of the platforms on which we publish our journalism.

At Frontline, we believe that one such way is through journalistic transparency. It’s something we’ve long practiced — but now more than ever, we’ve been cracking open our reporting process and offering new, self-directed opportunities to explore, search, and share what goes into building our journalism. As part of our broader Transparency Project initiative, this fall we launched The Putin Files — which made available 56 full-length interviews from the making of Michael Kirk and his team’s documentary, Putin’s Revenge. We published 32 interviews in video alongside transcripts, and 24 interviews in transcript form only — all fully navigable by person, theme, or highlight.

Our goal was not only to make our source material accessible to audiences, but to make it useful. We developed interactive tools that enable readers and viewers to explore annotated transcripts, compare versions of events, and share quotes via social media.

Poynter’s Jim Warren called this endeavor “an admirable move towards transparency.” And while a video and transcript effort like this is unique, there are different efforts at transparency underway at other news organizations — and we hope more will flourish in the year to come. I’m on a new Knight Commission that’s charged with developing ways to deepen public trust in the press and other democratic institutions. Thinking seriously about transparency will be an important part of the equation.

It’s important to note, though, that the burden (and opportunity) of trust-building doesn’t just fall on news organizations, but also on the platforms where people consume our stories. As Emily Bell said earlier this year, “Fake news has become a meaningless and rather dangerous phrase. But the problem of feeling unsure of what to believe and what not to believe, the obliteration of credible brands and the squeezing of all types of content into the same un-delineated window, is very real.” We’ve seen Facebook make moves towards differentiating between verified and unverified stories. Twitter and Google, too. But the problem is massive, and these are just first steps. I hope that in the year to come, media outlets and tech platforms alike will take bigger ones.

Raney Aronson-Rath is executive producer of the PBS investigative documentary series Frontline.

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

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

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

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

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Burt Herman   Things get real

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

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

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

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

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

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

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

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

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

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

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

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

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

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

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

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

Jake Levine   The return to now

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

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

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

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

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

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

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

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

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

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

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

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

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

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

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Paul Ford   Go global

Mariano Blejman   News games rule