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The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today committed $100,000 to the Trusting News project, which was launched by Joy Mayer with support from the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism. The project develops news engagement experiments and trains journalists on ways to increase trust with their audiences. It relies on audience feedback and uses in-depth research to design news innovations. 

According to Gallup, only 32 percent of people in the U.S. say they have "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of trust in the media's ability to report the news "fully, accurately, and fairly.” Yet journalists too often feel ill-equipped to deal with that harsh reality. What should newsrooms be doing day to day to climb the mountain of distrust?

The Trusting News project is bridging the gap between journalists and their communities. Mayer is leading research on how news consumers decide what to trust, developing strategies to address that behavior and training journalists to demonstrate their credibility. Trust isn’t automatic. It’s up to journalists to earn it. 

“You can’t take anything for granted these days in journalism and, not to sound like a therapist, trust issues are at the top of the list,” said RJI Executive Director Randy Picht. “So we need to learn, adapt and rebuild this critical aspect of our work and do it quickly. That’s one of the reasons we’re very excited to have the Knight Foundation as a partner on this project.”

The project’s goal is to empower journalists to address the trust problem head on. They can use the project’s research to justify making an investment in trust, and they can take action on a problem that threatens our democracy. 

“We’ve already worked with hundreds of journalists in 44 newsrooms,” Mayer said. “They’ve tested strategies for sharing the value of what they do and increasing authentic engagement. They’ve also interviewed their own news consumers about what they’re looking for from the news. Our research has uncovered some unexpected findings from readers and from journalists. We’ve already learned a lot that we’re eager to share with the news industry.”

This funding from the Knight Foundation will allow the Trusting News project to run experiments in many more newsrooms and communities. Plus the project will continue refining and growing its toolbox of strategies designed to demonstrate the value of journalism and get the insight into the hands of as many journalists as possible. 

“It’s been so inspiring to see how many people — both journalists and consumers — think this issue is important and are willing to contribute to solutions,” said Mayer. “I can’t wait to get trust-building strategies into more newsrooms and more journalism.”

The Trusting News is accepting applications from newsrooms interested in partnering at bit.ly/testingtrust.

About the Trusting News project: Read more about the Trusting News project, and see what’s been learned so far, at TrustingNews.org.  

About Joy Mayer and the Reynolds Journalism Institute: Mayer focused on engagement as a Missouri School of Journalism faculty member and it was the subject of her 2010-2011 RJI Fellowship. She directs Trusting News as a consulting fellow of RJI. The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute works with citizens, journalists and researchers to strengthen democracy through better journalism. RJI seeks out the most exciting new ideas, tests them with real-world experiments, uses social science research to assess their effectiveness and delivers solutions that citizens and journalists can put to use in their own communities.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation: The investment in the Trusting News project is part of a new major initiative to support the role of strong, trusted journalism as essential to a healthy democracy. The initiative is anchored by the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy, a panel of thinkers and doers from diverse backgrounds committed to informed and engaged communities. Combining big-picture thinking with immediate action, the initiative also features more than $2.5 million in new funding to seven projects aimed at improving trust in news and building stronger connections between journalists and their audiences.

Read the announcement here.


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