The public’s trust in traditional news outlets has steadily eroded. But one organization is striving to gain back that trust and deliver accurate news.
The Trust Project is a pro-transparency initiative with the slogan “News With Integrity.” It is an international consortium of news organizations collaborating to create standards of transparency in journalism with the goal of building a more trustworthy and trusted press.
The Trust Project has launch partners that include the The Economist, The Globe and Mail, the Independent Journal Review, Mic, Italy’s La Repubblica and La Stampa, and The Washington Post. Search engines and social media companies are also external partners of the project.
The Trust project is led by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman, and hosted by Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics was founded in 1986 with a grant and initial endowment from Linda and A.C. “Mike” Markkula Jr.
According to the Trust Project’s website, the Center brings the traditions of ethical thinking to bear on real-world problems. Beyond a full range of programs for the Santa Clara University community, the Center also serves professionals in fields from business to health care, from government to the social sector, providing innovative approaches to problems from fake news to privacy protection.
The Trust Project uses “Trust Indicators” to verify content before organizations publish work. The project’s collaborators decided on a core set of eight Trust Indicators to implement first. The Trust Project’s website outlines these indicators as best practices, author, type of work, citations and reference, being locally sourced, diverse voices, and actionable feedback.
These indicators are: checking “what is the outlet’s standards? Who funds the news outlet? What is the outlet’s mission? Plus commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, and making corrections.”
Indicators also include: details about the journalist, including their expertise and other stories they have worked on; distinguishing the type of work the story is; citations and references for investigative or in-depth stories; and access to the sources behind the facts and assertions.
Another trust indicator is information about why reporters chose to pursue a story and how they went about the process, along with if a story is locally sourced and reported on the scene, with deep knowledge about the local situation or community, and if a publisher has a commitment to bringing in diverse perspectives.
The final indicator is checking for the outlet’s willingness and its efforts to engage the public’s help in setting coverage priorities, contributing to the reporting process, and ensuring accuracy and other areas.
Publishers that have used The Trust Project to verify their work use “Trust Marks” to indicate their collaboration with them. Participating publishers will display the “Trust Mark” on the page where they describe their standards and practices.
Lehrman, director of The Trust Project, started her journalism career at her college paper at the University of California at Berkeley. She also worked for The San Francisco Examiner and had a freelance career before heading the Trust Project. She has also received awards for her science reporting, including a Peabody in 2002.
In an interview with Ozy.com, Lehrman stated that, “It’s not about convincing people to trust you. It’s about earning their trust.”