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Today's trust tip: Transparency sidebars can be quick and easy

Hi there. Lynn here.

A big part of what we do at the Trusting News project is help journalists talk about how we do our jobs, including how and why we make decisions.

When we explain our process, we allow users to see how our story came together, why we put resources toward covering the story and why we chose to include certain people, images and words.  

One way journalists do this is by creating boxes or sidebars dedicated to transparency. These boxes allow news organizations to explain their process and decisions within the story itself. Users don't have to click to another page to learn more about the journalism — they get the splash of behind-the-scenes information alongside the story they clicked on. 

One Trusting News newsroom partner, The Gazette, used a sidebar when covering a heated debate at a local school board meeting. In the sidebar, they included information about how long the newspaper has been covering the issue (more than a year), how many school board committee meetings the reporter had attended to gather all the facts and how they would continue to cover the issue after the school board vote.

Another newsroom, Science News, used a transparency sidebar to explain why they wrote a story about how a certain cat food could help those who are allergic to cats.

In the sidebar, they explained who they interviewed and why (they wanted to interview an expert who was not connected to the research study). And when explaining why they chose to cover the story in the first place the reporter wrote about how she was interested in knowing more about the research because her husband is allergic to cats. In addition to using the box to be transparent about their reporting, they used it to ask for user feedback and explain their larger newsroom-wide push to be transparent.

TRY THIS: Think about a story that's likely to get a lot of questions and/or criticism. What could you include in the story to proactively eliminate those questions or enhance its credibility? Write one to three sentences that answer these two questions: Why did you do this story? How did you do this story? Include this information in the story in a pullout or shaded box.

— Lynn Walsh, Trusting News assistant 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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