Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.
One bleary-eyed night in the bleary-eyed year that was 2020, I was poking around Facebook trying to determine how to get our Examiner Media business page verified. One link led to another until, somehow, my journey through a late-night rabbit hole landed me on the homepage of something called The Trust Project.
In my Trust Project deep dive I learned the organization was an international consortium of news organizations trying to build standards of transparency to enhance credibility with readers.
We live in an age of profound media distrust and deep confusion over what websites can and can’t be trusted online. Many well-intentioned people are unknowingly awash in a sea of misinformation, thinking they’re bathed in reality. If there was an organization combatting the problem on a global scale, I was eager to join and play our tiny role. I saw some of the most respected names in our industry listed as members of The Trust Project. News outlets like The Economist, The Washington Post and the Toronto Star, among hundreds of other serious names.
Let’s face it, Examiner Media is super skimpy potatoes in comparison, and I sometimes even wonder if calling ourselves by our company name conveys a sense we’re larger than our size. Basically, for those that don’t know, we’re a small band of local community journalists trying to survive the week and publish the weekly miracle.
It’s easy to feel a sense of imposter syndrome when printing Rotary pancake breakfast photos (as much as we genuinely love Rotary breakfasts) while at the same time preaching high-minded ideals. There are tons of sober stories we’d love to cover every week that we don’t have the bandwidth to cover (or to cover as thoroughly as we’d like), given our limited resources. But I shook away those doubts and sought entry.
The Trust Project is led by a brilliant, incisive, thoughtful woman named Sally Lehrman. An award-winning journalist, Lehrman founded the project in 2014 to, as the organization’s website puts it, “strengthen public confidence in the news through accountability and transparency.”
Many months after submitting an application to The Trust Project and following a vigorous vetting process, we were accepted into the training program. But right out the gate, Sally politely but clearly explained how we’d have to clear a tall series of hurdles across a long track before possibly gaining entry.
“As part of membership, you will be required to make various disclosures that make up our Trust Indicators,” she wrote in an e-mail more than a year ago, last March.
Starting today, after six months of formal compliance training, we’re Trust Project official, along with a handful of other news organizations in our cohort.
We’re incredibly excited that Examiner Media and one of our cohort colleagues are the first two news organizations to earn Trust Project compliance for our newsletters too, not just our websites. So, in addition to having The Trust Project logo seal of approval on The Examiner News local news website, you’ll also see the project insignia emblazoned inside our Substack-based Examiner+ newsmagazine-style newsletter.
But what is The Trust Project, more specifically? Essentially, Trust Project-sanctioned news organizations embrace eight fundamental principles, trademarked the “Trust Indicators.”
The Indicators help people know who and what is behind a given news story through disclosures on news sites about:
- Best Practices (Standards and Policies)
- Journalist Expertise
- Type of Work Labels
- References Behind Claims
- Methods of Reporting
- Local Expertise and Sourcing
- Diverse Voices and Perspectives
- ‘Actionable Feedback (Public Engagement)
But even though we’ve now finally gained entry into The Trust Project, the real work begins today – by maintaining our commitment daily to the ideals espoused by Lehrman. It’s especially gratifying to enter The Trust Project just a week after winning six honors for our local journalism at the New York Press Association’s statewide Better Newspaper Contest.
Dig through our new Trust Project-endorsed Best Practices page (https://www.theexaminernews.com/best-practices/) and support our mission by subscribing to our bonus content newsletter at www.examiner-plus.com. After all, one of the eight Trust Project Indicators, Actionable Feedback, is about forging two-way communication between news organizations and their audiences. With that in mind, please be in touch with your input. E-mail me at email@example.com and let’s connect.
Our entire team is eager to earn your trust.
– Adam Stone is the publisher of Examiner Media.