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Today's trust tip: Make it clear that you report on solutions, not just problems

Hi there. Joy here.

Newsrooms get a lot of complaints about covering too much "bad news." Too much conflict, violence, argument and devastation. In short, too many problems. Some of that comes with the territory, of course. Shining a light on a community's challenges is a key function of journalism.

But often, we try to aggressively report not just on problems but also on the people and projects working to solve them. We highlight what's working, not just what's broken. And when we do that, we need to clearly point it out. 

At Trusting News, we've worked on this with partner newsrooms, including some that are part of the Solutions Journalism Network. The SJN mission involves being of better service to communities — and building trust: "We help reporters, producers, and editors bring the same attention and rigor to stories about responses to problems as they do to the problems themselves. Doing so, we believe, can elevate public discourse, spur citizen agency, and reduce polarization. It can strengthen democracy. When added to the mix, it improves the overall quality and impact of journalism."

If you share this goal, have you told your audience? Have you shown them that you're rooting for your community's progress and well being? (You can articulate that value without being seen as a champion of a specific solution.) 

The Hechinger Report experimented with inserting clear solutions language into a newsletter. Even better, they did an A/B test, with half the newsletter list getting a traditional approach and half getting the language shown here. The click-through rate was 15% higher on the version with the solutions language. (We're eager to do more of this kind of testing. Reply to this email if you want to chat.) 

Here are more examples from our partner newsrooms of ways to build trust by highlighting solutions to problems. 

TRY THIS: Take a look at your upcoming coverage and find stories that highlight progress and problem-solving. (Feel free to also look at your archive — these types of stories sometimes have a long shelf life.) When you share them, add solutions-focused language to your social post, your on-air intro or your newsletter. 

  • Here's someone working toward a solution to ...
  • Progress is being made by ... 
  • We know it can be refreshing to read about positive things happening in the community. That's one reason we're bringing you ...
  • The world is full of problems, but it's also full of people working hard to solve them. That's why ... 

— Joy Mayer, Trusting News director

Does your community know why your journalism is valuable and what makes it credible? Give our coaches 30 minutes, and we’ll give you strategies customized for your newsroom. Request your free session.

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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