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Today's trust tip: Create an Ethics Landing Page

Hi there. Lynn here.

Lately, I've been talking to some newsrooms about creating ethics landing pages for their websites.

What is an ethics landing page? It's a place where a news organization discusses it's ethics policies and how it makes news decisions. These pages may look different newsroom to newsroom, but the reason they exist is to provide a one-stop-shop for users to understand why one story is covered and another isn't, how fact-checking works, why one image is included in a story over another, etc.

This is different than an "about" page because it is doing more than explaining your history, mission and values (although you could use some of that as intro text at the top of the page.) The point of the page is to allow users to get more information when they have a question about why or how you reported a story. The page can also serve as a great way to hold your newsroom accountable. Newsrooms already have ethics policies or standards they follow. By making this public, you are sharing these with users who can help hold you accountable to the standards you have set.

The Virginian Pilot created a page where all of their stories explaining how they make news decisions live. They have links to stories explaining how they write headlines, their approach to anonymous sources, how they select national stories and what happens after a user sends them a tip. On the same page, they also made their ethics policy public along with their comment policy.

When Annenberg Media realized it was in need of a corrections policy, they also took a look at their ethics policy and decided to share it with the public. In addition to making the policy public, they built it in a way that could be searched by keywords. They also wrote it in a way that non-journalists could understand.

TRY THIS: Creating an ethics landing page is a good way to start being more transparent about your journalism. The easiest way to do this is to publish your ethics policy. This may make some newsrooms feel too vulnerable or if you receive pushback from in-house lawyers, maybe you can publish parts or rewrite the policy in a more conversational way. One way to do that is by making a list of questions you receive from users. Assign different people in the newsroom to answer them. Discuss them with the wider newsroom to make sure people feel that the answers reflect what happens on a daily basis. Then begin publishing the articles and sharing them. If you create a landing page it makes it easier to find all of the content and direct users to one place. 

— 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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