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20100
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2050
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2020
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7

Transparency isn’t just a desire, it’s an expectation

“Similar to the shift we’ve seen in the farm-to-table movement around food sourcing and production, people want to know what goes into news production.”

People want to pull the curtain back. They want more than the story: They want to understand who’s telling it, how it came together, and how it’s being paid for.

In dozens of conversations with people across the U.S. and world, news consumers told us they want more insight into how the news is made. Why was a headline written a certain way? Why was one story featured on the homepage and not another? Who are all of the people involved in making those decisions? Similar to the shift we’ve seen in the farm-to-table movement around food sourcing and production, people want to know what goes into news production, whether that’s knowing that a news organization adhered to a standard of verifying specific information via multiple sources, that journalists poured over thousands of pages of documents for a particular story, or the people involved in the chain of command of decision-making.

That transparency, while at times seemingly mundane, helps people understand what the work of a modern news organization entails and contextualizes it. Most importantly, it also helps them get to know the people involved in making the content they consume, and that’s crucial when it comes to trust. People trust people more than institutions. They also now feel fairly fluent in the mechanics of marketing. Individuals have become much savvier consumers as a result of social media. We encountered person after person casually dropping marketing language into the conversations we have with them. They wonder if they’re in a certain news organization’s “target demographic.” They talk about push notifications as “clickbait.”

In a social media economy that thrives on individual personalities and opinions, people find it hard to make sense of an institution’s motivations or financial incentives. “Was that breaking news notification sent because I really needed to know that information in that moment, or because a news outlet gets paid when I click on a link?” This hint of skepticism has been expressed to us repeatedly in our in-field user research.

Highlighting individual voices within an organization makes it easier to build a relationship of trust, because people — what they stand for and their motivations — feel more easily knowable, especially due to social media. Social media has, for better or worse, given rise to an easily accessible vetting system. People can look to Twitter to see the history of a person’s shares, positions, and opinions. They can look to Instagram to see #ad to know when someone is selling something. Institutions don’t always feel as knowable or as transparent. It is far harder to make sense of an organization’s motivations or financial incentives than it is to unpack a person’s Twitter or Instagram history. People can see when someone is promoting something, sharing a funny meme, or retweeting a particular article. In looking through a person’s history, it feels easier to understand what an individual is asking of you (if anything) or how he or she wants you to engage. WIthout giving people a behind-the-scenes look into the process of how a story comes together, people largely assume that an institution’s motivations are purely financial.

In order to build trust, news organizations must let people in on the processes and people that bring stories to life.

Kourtney Bitterly is research lead for product and design discovery at The New York Times.

People want to pull the curtain back. They want more than the story: They want to understand who’s telling it, how it came together, and how it’s being paid for.

In dozens of conversations with people across the U.S. and world, news consumers told us they want more insight into how the news is made. Why was a headline written a certain way? Why was one story featured on the homepage and not another? Who are all of the people involved in making those decisions? Similar to the shift we’ve seen in the farm-to-table movement around food sourcing and production, people want to know what goes into news production, whether that’s knowing that a news organization adhered to a standard of verifying specific information via multiple sources, that journalists poured over thousands of pages of documents for a particular story, or the people involved in the chain of command of decision-making.

That transparency, while at times seemingly mundane, helps people understand what the work of a modern news organization entails and contextualizes it. Most importantly, it also helps them get to know the people involved in making the content they consume, and that’s crucial when it comes to trust. People trust people more than institutions. They also now feel fairly fluent in the mechanics of marketing. Individuals have become much savvier consumers as a result of social media. We encountered person after person casually dropping marketing language into the conversations we have with them. They wonder if they’re in a certain news organization’s “target demographic.” They talk about push notifications as “clickbait.”

In a social media economy that thrives on individual personalities and opinions, people find it hard to make sense of an institution’s motivations or financial incentives. “Was that breaking news notification sent because I really needed to know that information in that moment, or because a news outlet gets paid when I click on a link?” This hint of skepticism has been expressed to us repeatedly in our in-field user research.

Highlighting individual voices within an organization makes it easier to build a relationship of trust, because people — what they stand for and their motivations — feel more easily knowable, especially due to social media. Social media has, for better or worse, given rise to an easily accessible vetting system. People can look to Twitter to see the history of a person’s shares, positions, and opinions. They can look to Instagram to see #ad to know when someone is selling something. Institutions don’t always feel as knowable or as transparent. It is far harder to make sense of an organization’s motivations or financial incentives than it is to unpack a person’s Twitter or Instagram history. People can see when someone is promoting something, sharing a funny meme, or retweeting a particular article. In looking through a person’s history, it feels easier to understand what an individual is asking of you (if anything) or how he or she wants you to engage. WIthout giving people a behind-the-scenes look into the process of how a story comes together, people largely assume that an institution’s motivations are purely financial.

In order to build trust, news organizations must let people in on the processes and people that bring stories to life.

Kourtney Bitterly is research lead for product and design discovery at The New York Times.

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