Moving Beyond “Fake News” – Journalists Fight to Regain Public Trust

Journalism is not an easy job. With the exception of a few big name columnists and TV news celebrities, most journalists work long hours for moderate pay and are often subject to having their reporting picked apart by internet commenters. Public scrutiny of journalism has ramped up significantly in the past five years, as “fake news” became a frequent political talking point.

According to Cision’s latest State of the Media report, journalists now say that the biggest threats to their jobs is the public’s lack of trust in their work and the media overall. This represents a significant shift, as just a few years ago, media were citing declining ad sales or subscriptions and competition from social platforms as their biggest challenges.

So how can newsrooms and reporters regain public trust?

For many, it starts with transparency. One reason that the average news consumer may not trust a journalist’s reporting is due to a lack of understanding of the reporting process and the many steps it entails to research, write and fact check a story. A number of outlets are working to tackle this problem by promising new commitments to transparency.

Minnesota’s Post Bulletin recently laid out their commitment to transparency by partnering with The Trust Project, a global consortium of news outlets working together to create a framework of “trust indicators” that news readers can rely on. And beyond day-to-day reporting, transparency becomes even more important when newsrooms make a mistake. Complete transparency to address and correct mistakes publicly is critical if the media hopes to regain trust among consumers.

What does this mean for PR?

A good PR practitioner can help reporters reach their trust goals while securing a win for clients at the same time. PR representatives do this by being reliable resource. Media cannot be seen as credible if the PR professionals they are turning to for information aren’t credible. Providing access to quality data and industry experts, with proven their work in their field, is part of building trust and a strong relationship between PR pros and journalists. While it can be tempting to stretch data findings to fit into an attention-grabbing headline, doing so may cause both the journalist and the company to lose credibility.  

Of course, all PR practitioners must remember the PRSA Code of Ethics, which prioritizes honesty and the free flow of information. When the journalists that cover your client are seen as credible, that’s a win for everybody.

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