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Today's trust tip: Reporters, explain your purpose

Hi there. Joy here.

How do you choose which stories to cover? That question is high on the list of what your audience wants to know about your work. And as we wrote in an earlier newsletter, without clear answers from you, they're making plenty of assumptions.

Rather than letting your audience guess about your agenda, try telling them what you're trying to accomplish. 

KPCC / LAist launched individual mission statements earlier this year in which reporters described their priorities. Those statements serve an internal function of helping reporters judge story ideas according to clear, self-determined guidelines. They also serve an external function by inviting the public to hold them accountable and contribute ideas. A public-facing mission statement can increase engagement and also give you something to point to in the face of misassumptions and accusations about your agenda and personal bias.

David Wagner's statement, for example, sheds light on how he approaches his job reporting on business and the economy. He's telling the story of real people, and he wants to help Angelenos achieve greater economic success. 

With this structure, he's sending a message: Here's what I said I was going to do. How am I doing — does today's coverage fulfill that mission? What else should I be looking at? 

Read more about this newsroom's approach in a guest post on our Medium publication from Hearken's Summer Fields. (KPCC used Hearken embeds to invite audience questions and input.) And scan through a list of reporter mission statements here

TRY THIS: Make a list of the basic questions you're trying to answer on your beat. Think about the stories that feel most central to your job. What themes do those stories have in common? At the end of the year, what would you most like to have accomplished? Use language that will make sense to your community, not just to other journalists. Write a few sentences that capture those ideas, and discuss the statement with your boss. See if you can get buy-in to incorporate it officially into your published work, whether that's in your reporter bio, in italics at the end of your stories, in a newsletter you write or in a social media post. 

— Joy Mayer, Trusting News director

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Trusting News aims to demystify trust in news and empower journalists to take responsibility for actively demonstrating credibility and earning trust. It is a project of the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the American Press Institute

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