Building Trust Between Journalists and the Public

by Jennifer Karchmer

Steps reporters can take to build trust with the public:

Be transparent — peel back the layers of reporting. Show readers where you found your information.

Be clear where and how your interviews take place: in person, over the phone, via email. Avoid online or social media conversations with potential sources.

Plainly state sources’ backgrounds and their agendas.

If sources are unnamed, be clear if they are decision makers, partisans, loyalists, adversaries, experts or eyewitnesses.

Be careful with digital optimization; search engine optimization (SEO) should be balanced and contextual, not maximized for clicks.

Label all opinion and commentary pieces clearly and prominently so they’re easily discernible from news.

Steps the public can take to improve media literacy:
Read “Truth Counts: A Practical Guide for News Consumers,” a guide to help the public navigate the media landscape and locate credible information.

Don’t automatically share an article based on its headline. Read the entire article before clicking “Like” or “Share” on social media. You might find that the reporting is shoddy, the article is poorly written or that the headline is misleading.

Read fact-checking sites like, The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” or

Check out Snopes, which has compiled a list of some fake news and hoax sites:

Read the corrections page of the newspaper and media sites. Pay attention to the types of corrections and clarifications because they show the precision and accuracy required of journalists when reporting facts.

Follow the suggestion from longtime newspaperman Pete Hamill, who recommends writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or media outlet, saying, “Don’t give me anymore of this bullshit! Give me a good paper and I’ll buy it every day of the week.”

Note: Some of these references come from the National Press Foundation webcast, “Book Talk: Helping People Sort Fact From Fiction,” published July 17, 2018.