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Today's trust tip: Clearly label opinion content

Hi there. Lynn here.

Not being able to tell opinion content from news content is a frustration a lot of news consumers have. And, in some cases, that's for good reason. Across platforms, news organizations don't always make it easy.

We have to make sure we are labeling our content and using words the public will understand. And the words "editorial" and "op-ed" do not necessarily help our situation. We know what those words mean, but not all users do. (This 2018 research from the Media Insight Project makes a clear case that we have a lot to teach news consumers about how we operate.)

And too often, even we think we're being clear with our labeling, but the label doesn't follow the story on all platforms, including social media and apps.

When USA TODAY learned their Facebook users were having a hard time telling the difference between news and opinion content they were sharing on Facebook, editors manually added the word "column" to some Facebook headlines. As a result, they perceived a lower level of confusion from their Facebook users.

The Virginian-Pilot created a plain-language glossary to help users understand the different labels they use. They explained terms like wire, editorial, exclusive, and more.

TRY THIS: Look at your website and social media pages. Are labels for opinion content clearly visible in every instance? What about the content that gets broken down from your broadcast and made into clips for apps or other uses? If labels are not clearly visible, find a way to connect a label to the story. Try adding the word "opinion" to the headline, text of the social post or caption for the video or audio clip. If you decide to use other words like "editorial" or "explainer" or "analysis," it's a good idea to explain what that content is in an editor's note at the top of the article.

COMING SOON: A future Trust Tips will address labeling other types of content (investigations, fact-checks, explainers, etc.).

— Lynn Walsh Trusting News assistant director

What does your community not understand about your work? Our trust coaches can help you explain your processes with free one-on-one coaching. Find out what we can help you with and sign up 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

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