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From the Editor: An antidote for fake news

From the Editor: An antidote for fake news

November 19th, 2017 by Gary Castor in Opinion
Gary Castor, News Tribune managing editor

Fake news. Those two words can make a journalist's blood boil.

Nationally, the news industry is launching a new set of transparency standards designed to help readers more clearly assess the quality and reliability of the news they consume.

Consider it an antidote for the viral disease of fake news.

Reporting news impartially and objectively is not a new concept for journalists, especially those who work for WEHCO, the parent company of the Jefferson City News Tribune.

In a statement of core values on page 2 of the News Tribune, WEHCO Publisher Walter Hussman Jr. shares his vision for journalism: "Credibility is the greatest asset of any news medium, and impartiality is the greatest source of credibility."

Hussman defines impartiality as meaning "reporting, editing and delivering the news honestly, fairly, objectively and without personal opinion or bias."

The News Tribune has a tradition of integrity, reliability and innovation that serves as the foundation of our work. But we believe we need to do a better job of sharing how we cover the news and how we make decisions.

Nationally, media companies representing dozens of news sites have begun displaying Trust Indicators, which clarify the companies' ethics, news standards, journalists' backgrounds and how they go about doing their jobs.

Eight core indicators in this non-partisan Trust Project are used to show the quality and reliability of the journalism produced.

The eight core indicators are:

  • What is the organization's mission? What is its commitment to ethics, accuracy and making corrections?
  • Who is reporting the information? Who is the journalist who wrote the story, and what is his or her expertise?
  • What type of work is this? Labels should distinguish opinion from news and from advertising.
  • Citations and references. Give readers greater access to the sources behind the facts and assertions in stories.
  • How was the story produced? Why did the reporter pursue the story, and how were the facts discovered?
  • Locally sourced. Make the story relevant locally by using local experts and experiences.
  • Pursue diversity. Diverse perspectives should be portrayed in stories.
  • Seek and act on feedback. Engage the public's help in identifying stories, contributing to the reporting and ensuring accuracy.

Hopefully, many of these indicators should be familiar to readers of the News Tribune.

From Hussman's statement of core values, to the clear labels of news, opinions and paid ads on our pages, to the efforts to pursue diverse, local voices on issues that have a direct impact on Mid-Missouri, we have a history of being transparent and accountable for the information we deliver to your doorstep every morning. It's what drives us and inspires us.

While proud of that legacy, we also strive to build upon it. We recognize we must become even more transparent and effective as communicators. Before news broke this week about the Trust Project, the News Tribune already had been accepted into a similar project born out of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.

RJI's project, called Trusting News, encourages a participating newspaper to identify areas of improvement.

We've identified four areas of focus:

  • Show how we are distinct from "the media."
  • Demonstrate balance in our work.
  • Show the individual personality and credibility of our journalists.
  • Be accessible and responsive.

We invite you to check out what we've done so far. A new About Us page on our website features our mission statement, forms for submitting feedback and ideas, our corrections policy and our history in this community.

We have other efforts in the works and will try to keep you updated as they come closer to fruition.

In the meantime, I encourage you to offer feedback through the About Us page or the form below, emails to me at gary@newstribune.com or at the next Coffee with the Editor, scheduled from 8-10 a.m. Nov. 29 at Oscar's Classic Diner.

I look forward to these monthly coffees for the story ideas and feedback on how we are doing. If you haven't been to one, the setting is pretty casual and you set the topics of conversation. I always take away some great ideas; you take away a free cup of coffee and a very cool coffee mug.

Gary Castor is the managing editor of the Jefferson City News Tribune.