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Trust Tips 3: Be ready to discuss content you don't produce

Hi there. Joy here. 

Who do you trust to inform your audience of things that happen outside your coverage area? When was the last time you and your colleagues had a good talk about the stories you publish that you don’t produce yourselves? 

We’re here to tell you: Your audience is talking about those stories, and they’re holding you accountable for them. 

And why shouldn’t they? If you publish a story — from your staff, from the Associated Press, from CNN, from The Washington Post, etc. — you’re responsible for it. Whether it’s an automatic feed on your website or a carefully selected story leading your newscast or front page, it’s part of the product you’re offering and you should be prepared to stand behind it.

As Erica Smith of The Virginian Pilot wrote for us, she’s heard from readers who are very curious about the choices made around national political stories. She said she knows there are readers who think the paper is owned by The Washington Post because it publishes Post stories. (We’ll give you one guess whether most of those readers were fans of the Post.) 

When you find out people are curious about your process — or mad about something they don’t understand — it’s an opportunity to better tell your story. Who else is going to clear up those misconceptions and fill those information gaps? (We’ll jump straight to the answer again: No one else. It’s on you.)

Another partner, the Enid News & Eagle, included a mention of AP content in a recent editorial responding to a letter writer who was critical of national political coverage.

Trusting News partner WITF put together a page called "Assembling the building blocks to broadcast" that directly addressed NPR content. They can then link to it anytime someone asks a question or complains about those stories. (Related: Last week's newsletter addressed ways to explain how story decisions get made.)

TRY THIS: When you get a comment complaining about content you didn’t produce, say something like … 

Our job is to bring you the best local journalism we can. We do pay for the right to publish content from XXX, because we think it’s important to help you stay up to date on national and world news. We’ve found their journalism, in general, to be consistent with our standards. But if you have a concern about a specific story, we’d appreciate your feedback so we can talk about it in our newsroom and also pass it along to our news partners. You can reach us at xxxxx. (Include a personal email if possible.)

— Joy Mayer, Trusting News director

Are you ready for a free one-on-one coaching session to talk about how you could earn trust? 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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