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Today's trust tip: Create a handout about your newsroom

Hi there. Joy here.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the importance of earning trust face to face — how looking into another person’s eyes is more likely to create an authentic connection than an online or phone interaction.

I also pointed you to new Pew data, which shows that only 21 percent of Americans have ever spoken with a journalist. (And those interactions are more likely to have happened with younger, less affluent, less educated, non-white people.)

That means this: Each time we interact with someone in the community, it could be that person's very first time talking to a journalist. (This Medium post has tips for making the most of those interactions.) 

Picture the dozens (hundreds?) of people you and your colleagues interact with each week — during interviews, at community events, when they stop by the newsroom or while chatting in line at the grocery store. What if, after each of those interactions, the person walked away with something tangible that invited them to get to know the newsroom better?

Enter the handout.

When I was the director of community outreach at the Columbia Missourian, we made a few different flyers to distribute. Here's one

One nice thing about a handout is that making copies is inexpensive. (You could make wallet-sized cards if you want to get fancy.) Why not spend a few hours creating one, print 100 copies, and see how it goes? Have reporters keep some in their car or backpack. Set some by the lobby door. Set some on a table at a community event. 

Anywhere you interact with your audience is an opportunity to earn trust.

Things you could include on your handout:

  • A statement that says you value your community's trust and would like to know how you could better serve your neighbors.
  • Your newsroom's contact information. (Individual staffers could add their own or attach a business card.)
  • A look at ways your newsroom invites people to interact (share a question or idea, submit a letter, offer feedback, tour the newsroom, etc).
  • Information about subscriptions, membership or donations.
  • Your newsroom's mission statement, with a url that points to other About Us information.
  • An ethics statement, with a url that points to the whole policy. 
  • A note about how you strive to be fair or what values drive your work.

Remember this: The very idea that a newsroom makes decisions based on a consistent, thoughtful ethical framework is a foreign concept to most news consumers. Many people just don't possess that information, and it might run counter to some of their assumptions. (If you don't have a public-facing ethics policy, consider a statement saying you follow the SPJ Code of Ethics.)

TRY THIS: Have a conversation in your newsroom about what you most wish people understood about you. Go over the bulleted list above, and discuss what would be most helpful to include. If there isn't wide buy-in to the idea, why not create one just for the beat you cover, or for your social media profiles, or for any other department that you have influence over? Tell people how you decide what to cover. Point out the breadth of things you cover. Say something about how your goals or purpose. (For inspiration on beat-specific mission statements, see these examples from KPCC.)

And if you've tried this or seen examples of it, please let me know!

— Joy Mayer, Trusting News director

Are you ready for a free one-on-one coaching session to talk about how you could earn trust? Or would you like our team to read behind you on the handout you create? Request a session here

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

Copyright © 2019 Trusting News, All rights reserved.

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