The Trust Crisis

March 23, 2017

by Roger Pynn

When I first read this article about research conducted by the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, I wanted someone to slap me awake.  “Could this really require research?” I asked.

The study concludes that Americans who find “news” online, it is not the organization that creates the news, but who shares it via social media that determines how much they trust the information.  In other words, if your beloved Aunt Jane (the one the family calls “Saint Jane”) shares an article on Facebook, you are far more likely to believe it because she shared it than whether it came from a highly recognized news organization like, for instance, the Associated Press.

As I read the story a second time, my attitude changed to “isn’t it a darned shame that news outlets lost sight of the basics of human trust?”

I’m like everyone else … concerned over the unraveling of American news media (I’ll not worry about media in Russia).  It goes way beyond the shrinking number of classically trained journalists, the shuttering of some fine papers and magazines, and certainly, the striking lack of editing or adherence to basic principles that used to restrict opinion creep.  I’m worried about the apparent inability of most people to recognize the difference between news and commentary – and that includes a lot of people who claim to be journalists.

This single comment left me reeling:

“All of this suggests that a news organization’s credibility both as a brand and for individual stories is significantly affected by what kinds of people are sharing it on social media sites such as Facebook. The sharers act as unofficial ambassadors for the brand, and the sharers’ credibility can influence readers’ opinions about the reporting source.”

Of course!  For Pete’s sake, are you going to accept something your most trusted friend tells you?  Even if it is published by some outlet you’ve never heard of?  You’ve probably never heard of the American Press Institute before, but if you’re reading our blog it is most likely because we have a relationship and you’re therefore likely to believe I wouldn’t share something with you if it was not reliable information.

All this boils down to the colossal failure of media organizations to earn trust.  It isn’t just because the President of the United States is cutting them up like paper dolls.  He’s simply capitalizing on their failure to create a relationship.  Facebook gets you to like someone.  Do you ever wonder whether your newspaper cares if you like them?


Report or Comment? When a Journalist Retweets, it’s Hard to Tell

March 5, 2013

by Dan Ward

I returned from a meeting this afternoon and saw this in my twitter feed:

“@JebBush a flip-flop-flip on immigration? Wow. I fashioned you more of a baseball player than a gymnast. My bad. #notsurprisedatall”

The tweet was authored by Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, so the partisan tone is to be expected.

But I don’t follow Rep. Wasserman-Shultz. I saw her message because it was retweeted with no additional comment by Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith, who I do follow.

Now, if you read Smith’s twitter profile, you will see the message, “Retweets are not endorsements,” but that is only clear if you take it upon yourself to look at his profile. My first thought upon seeing the tweet was, “wow, that’s quite a partisan message for an objective journalist to forward on to his followers.”

Based on the disclaimer in Smith’s profile, I understand that he retweets comments as part of his journalistic responsibility to share information, rather than as endorsements, but I do wonder whether a disclaimer on a profile goes far enough.

Is it my responsibility as a follower to determine whether I’m looking at a report rather than an editorial comment, or is it the responsibility of the reporter/editor to ensure his followers know the difference?


NYTimes.com Transcends our Concept of “The Newspaper”

August 6, 2010

by Dionne Aiken

Visited nytimes.com lately?  Maybe you logged on during the World Cup

or to track the oil spill.  Well if you haven’t logged on lately you’re missing out.

In such a dynamic information arena, where consumers can get “info-on-demand,” via the Web, smart phone and tech devices in a matter of seconds, some newspapers continue the struggle to keep up – others, like The New York Times, remain forerunners by taking advantage of this dynamic platform.  They grab the reigns and race ahead transcending our concept of the newspaper and news delivery.

In a recent interview, Steve Duenes and Archie Tse from The New York Times graphics department talk about the extensive work that goes into creating all the graphics on the news site.  When you think about the size of the site, the amount of information and small window of turnaround time, this begins to look like a daunting task fit only for a magician.

Duenes & Tse say that starting with a simple (yet sophisticated) foundation is critical in creating graphics that are sustainable but also expandable so that as information is added they hold up over time.  This process involves a lot of painstaking work and sorting through data to effectively communicate data, stories and messages in the clearest manner possible.

The end result?  Their graphics direct in amazing story telling.

From climate changes timelines, to carbon dioxide emissions

interactive tours though Broadway

or the number of Frisks in NYC.

For journalist, editors, and designers alike message delivery and how we tell our story is an important task.  It’s just data but it really all depends on how you look at it.


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