‘Make It as Great as It Could Be’; Good Journalism Needs Trust Inside Organization and Out

“Diverse sourcing makes us more trustworthy arbiters of the news.” As a new study again talks about the lack of consumer trust in news organizations, it’s important for B2B, niche and association media to take actions that instill trust—both from our audience and colleagues. Here are a few ways we see that happening across the landscape.

“Many news organizations are embracing approaches such as solutions journalism around subjects like climate change that aim to give people a sense of hope or personal agency. Others are looking to find ways to widen the agenda to softer subjects or make news more relevant at a personal level, but there will be a limit to how far journalists can go—or should go—to make the news more palatable.”

That quote came from Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2022. “Solutions journalism” is an interesting phrase and certainly an appealing one for publishers in this precarious age. According to the same report, “trust in the news has fallen in almost half the countries in our survey, and risen in just seven… news trust in the USA has fallen by a further three percentage points and remains the lowest (26%) in our survey.”

That lack of trust translates into a tougher first-party data strategy, according to the report. “We find that most consumers are still reluctant to register their email address with news sites. Across our entire sample, only around a third (32%) say they trust news websites to use their personal data responsibly—comparable to online retailers such as Amazon—and the figure is even lower in the United States (18%).”

That presents B2B media with a big challenge, one we have seen taken on by Neal Award winners (2023 nominations are open for the 69th edition) and will surely be discussed as we gather for BIMS 2023 in Orlando, Feb. 23-24. Meanwhile, here are 5 tips for creating a conducive atmosphere for good, and maybe even solutions, journalism:

Be inclusive. “Diverse sourcing makes us more trustworthy arbiters of the news,” Neema Roshania Patel, editor of The Washington Post Next Generation Audience Development team, wrote on Poynter recently. “A 2021 study from the Reuters Institute shows that younger people have a strong interest in coverage that is clearly more diverse and inclusive, with an emphasis on ‘human, personal and real stories.’ …Are we engaging with a diverse range of sources, even when the story isn’t explicitly about marginalized groups?”

Encourage your colleagues. “As writers for a B2B publication, we have to have business angles in our stories. But business stories can be elevated to have so much more to them, and we are absolutely encouraged to get to those heights,” said Ben Fidler, BioPharma Dive senior editor and a 2022 Neal Award winner. “As I reported out [the award-winning feature article] and saw the story getting bigger, my colleagues pushed me to keep going and make it as great as it could be.” Others on the staff were also encouraged to contribute. “We hired a photographer. Got the design team involved. It turned into a significant effort. As a senior editor, I may have gotten more instant trust in the idea, but this story could’ve been pursued by anyone who went after it.”

Present a more positive big picture. According to an extensive new Pew Research Center survey of nearly 12,000 working U.S.-based journalists, 70% of journalists surveyed say “they are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ satisfied with their job, and an identical share say they often feel excited about their work.” And an even larger majority say they are extremely proud of their work. But “when asked to describe their industry in a single word, nearly three-quarters of journalists surveyed (72%) use a word with negative connotations, with the most common responses being words that relate to ‘struggling’ and ‘chaos.’” The detachment of remote work could have something to do with this, but that pride needs to be built upon by the respective media organizations.

Be vulnerable—it’s okay. In an article titled The Surprising Power of Simply Asking Coworkers How They’re Doing, the Harvard Business Review said this: “Seek feedback from your colleagues, especially those who are junior to you. Demonstrate your trust in them through the way you communicate and act on their feedback. For example, expressing vulnerability by acknowledging their views and talking openly about challenges you’re facing humanizes the relationship you have with your peers and direct reports.”

Listen actively. “Active listening is about listening to understand rather than just to hear. That isn’t inherently difficult—but it does require much more of a conscious effort than the passive approach most of us normally take,” writes Fast Company, reporting on the “three A’s” of active listening: A constructive Attitude; a dedication of Attention; and Adjustment: “Maintain a degree of flexibility to follow the course of what a speaker is sharing with you rather than trying to anticipate what will be said.”

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