Frequently Asked Questions

The Trust Project Explained

How it works

What is the Trust Project and what does it do?
The Trust Project is an international consortium of news organizations promoting  standards  of  transparency and working with technology platforms to affirm and amplify journalism’s commitment to transparency, accuracy, inclusion, and fairness so that the public can make informed news choices.

We apply a user-centered design process. Based on dozens of in-depth interviews with a diverse spectrum of the public, executives from more than 100 news outlets identified and designed a system of Trust Indicators  — that is, standardized disclosures about the news outlet, the journalist, and the commitments behind their work  —  to make it easy to identify trustworthy news. Digital platforms, including Google, Facebook and Bing, use the Trust Indicators and the machine-readable signals associated with them to more easily surface, display or label trustworthy news to their users.

What is trustworthy news?
The short answer: News that is accurate, accountable and ethically produced. But how do we know? That’s what the Trust Project is about. Through its ongoing collaboration with the public and top news executives around the world, and engagement with big search and social media companies, the consortium has defined both public-facing and technical standards for quality journalism that can be easily recognized anywhere.

How does the Trust Project combat misinformation and deliberate falsehood?

Misinformation isn’t necessarily intentional – it could be rumor or poorly researched claims. Disinformation is deliberately misleading, We address both by helping people get more access to the real thing  —  journalism with integrity — and know when they’re looking at it. Our news partners provide the Trust Indicators so people can make informed decisions about the news they decide to read and share. The indicators provide transparency around features that people have said matter to them, and that clearly distinguish trustworthy news from all the other kinds of information out there.

By focusing on reading and sharing news with integrity behind it, we can lessen the power of misinformation and stop its spread.

What is the Trust Mark?

The Trust Mark is a logo that indicates that the page was produced by a participant in the Trust Project consortium. Many participating publishers use the Trust Mark on the page where they describe their standards and practices, or on their article pages.

About the 8 Trust Indicators

What are the Trust Indicators?

The 8 Trust Indicators are a widely accepted standard for assessing the integrity behind a news site. They are transparency disclosures that show who and what is behind a given news story, including the standards, policies and expertise that ensure the site is producing true journalism in service to the public interest. We developed these Trust Indicators through a user-centered design process, ensuring that they respond to public needs and wants and, at the same time, reflect core journalism values.

Teachers may like our teaching materials and other resources related to the Trust Indicators, including the Trust Protocol and our associated editorial guidelines.

In our international collaborations, we have found that these Trust Indicators reflect journalism values around the world. We continue to enhance them. For explanations of the Trust Indicators and how we came to them, read Sally Lehrman’s essay in The Atlantic.

Who came up with The Trust Project Indicators and how did they do it

The Trust Indicators emerged from a collaboration led by Lehrman that includes top editors around the world. She began by commissioning one-on-one user interviews to understand what people value in news — and why and when they trust it. In workshops that followed, news executives married those results with journalism values to identify features that underpin quality and trustworthiness in news: the Trust Indicators. Through design sprints and a development and engineering event, they created a system to increase the openness and transparency of news stories by displaying and signaling the Trust Indicators.

The process dates back to 2012, when Lehrman brought the Society of Professional Journalists’ New Media Executive Roundtable and Online Credibility Watch to Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, creating the Roundtable on Digital Journalism Ethics. Participants in the 2014 gathering expressed concerns about the ways in which the pressure to get clicks was degrading news ethics and quality. Lehrman asked a specialist in machine learning at Twitter, and Richard Gingras, head of Google News, if algorithms could be used to support ethics instead of hurting them, and they said yes. Gingras agreed to collaborate, and top editors in the industry from 100 news outlets and institutions joined the effort that followed, contributing to working groups focused on every element of the process.

What did people say in the interviews?

You can read about where we interviewed people and what they said in the interview sets we have posted. We learned that many people work very hard to check and cross-check the news to be sure they can trust it. Others feel overwhelmed by the quantity of news. Still others are frustrated and angry by what they feel is misrepresentation. We found out that people wanted a lot more information about, as one interviewee put it, “how the story was built.” For a summary of the first round of interviews, read Lehrman’s essay in The Atlantic: “What People Really Want From News Organizations.”

Where do I find the 8 Trust Indicators?

If you look at a Trust Project news partner’s news pages, you’ll find a link to information about the company, details about the journalist who produced the story and a link to find out more, and a clear label with a definition if the piece is opinion, analysis or paid content instead of reported, impartial news. On more in-depth or potentially controversial news pieces, you’ll also get details about the sources used to get to the facts or to understand a complicated issue. The Trust Indicators can be seen on each news article page, and also in special pages that describe policies and individual journalists’ expertise.

Each news organization displays the Trust Indicators within their own design environment on both their article pages and website. You’ll find a list of our consortium partners here, and links to Trust Indicators on many of their pages on the PEN America/Trust Project Transparency Tracker.

How do you know the Trust Indicators work?

The Trust Indicators are offered by newsrooms to provide clarity on who and what is behind a news story so that people can easily assess whether it comes from a credible news source.

Research, both live and in experimental settings, has found that the Trust Indicators meet user needs. Across two surveys, Reach Plc (UK) found that trust in its flagship outlet, The Mirror, jumped eight percent after it added the Trust Indicators to its site. An experiment at UT-Austin’s Center for Media Engagement found higher evaluations of a news organization’s reputation, including its trustworthiness and reliability, when the Trust Indicators were present. In both of these studies, confidence in the individual journalist was higher as well.

What is the Trust Project’s strategy against deception?

Publishers are responsible for providing the Trust Indicators to users and adding the appropriate Schema.org vocabulary to their page code. Compliance questions about UX or technical issues go to the Trust Project internal team, which works with the site to fix them. If we see false claims about participation in the Trust Project, we address them.

We have agreements with external partners to help our news partners showcase their integrity and involvement in the Trust Project to news distribution platforms and other organizations reliant on trustworthy news. We provide information to those partners so they know which sites are Trust Partners in good standing. In addition, Google and other platforms use their existing quality assurance strategies.

How do I report a problem?

We ask members of the public to report concerns about coverage to publishers directly and to make recommendations about sources and stories. As a participant in the Trust Project, our news partners have committed to accurate coverage and to listening to feedback and advice from the public. We all agree that it’s important for the public to hold news organizations accountable and help them meet their own high journalistic standards.

The most serious complaints about news partner behavior go through a confidential complaint adjudication process. We evaluate the complaint, review the facts and give the site a chance to respond.  If a resolution cannot be reached, we ask the site to remove the Trust Mark from its pages and we remove them from our news partner lists. We provide an opportunity for appeal within one month, and reapplication after one year.

If you want to elevate an issue with a site to the Trust Project or talk to us  about our overall work, then please use this form.

Who’s behind the Project?

Who is behind the Trust Project?

The Trust Project is a nonprofit California corporation founded and led by CEO Sally Lehrman, a Peabody Award-winning journalist who has been covering science and social issues related to science for many years.  Our team supports consortium operations from around the world. We operate under a Board of Directors, rely on the strategic expertise of our Advisory Group, and our News Leadership Council of news partners guides us on membership matters, Trust Indicator changes and other  issues related to information literacy and building trust in journalism. Because we operate as a consortium, we also assemble working groups on central issues as they develop, including updates to the Trust Indicators. Our applicant review committee is composed of leaders from our news partner sites.   Learn more in About Us.

Who came up with Trust Indicators and how did they do it?

The Trust Indicators emerged from a collaboration led by Lehrman that includes top editors around the world. She began by commissioning one-on-one user interviews to understand what people value in news — and why and when they trust it. In workshops that followed, news executives married those results with journalism values to identify features that underpin quality and trustworthiness in news: the Trust Indicators™. Through design sprints and a development and engineering event, they created a system to increase the openness and transparency of news stories by displaying and signaling the Trust Indicators.

The process dates back to 2012, when Lehrman reconvened the Society of Professional Journalists’ New Media Executive Roundtable and Online Credibility Watch, creating the Roundtable on Digital Journalism Ethics. Participants in the 2014 gathering expressed concerns about the ways in which the pressure to get clicks was degrading news ethics and quality. Lehrman asked a specialist in machine learning at Twitter, and Richard Gingras, head of Google News, if algorithms could be used to support ethics instead of hurting them, and they said yes. Gingras agreed to collaborate, and top editors in the industry from 80 news outlets and institutions joined the effort that followed, contributing to working groups focused on every element of the process.

Where does your funding come from?

The Trust Project must cover its own costs through fundraising. We are funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Google, the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Markkula Foundation. The Trust Project’s initial funder was Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist. Google was an early financial supporter as well. The consortium was initially incubated at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

What role do technology companies play?

Technology companies work with us as external partners. Google, Facebook, Bing use the indicators and their associated machine-readable signals in various ways to enhance their ability to differentiate reliable, trustworthy journalism from other information, and continue to develop new uses. Other organizations such as Nuzzel, a news aggregator, use the Trust Indicators to help people find trustworthy news with authority.

Richard Gingras, vice president for news at Google, said, “The Trust Project’s required disclosures and clear definitions should help the public –  and Google’s systems – recognize and value quality journalism.” The three technology companies also consult Lehrman and the Trust Project consortium for advice on elevating accurate, dependable news in search and social media.

For Newsroom Managers

Which news organizations can join?
Only established news organizations that produce a majority of original journalism, commit to accuracy and inclusion, correct their mistakes and adhere to public service as their central mission can join. User-generated content and discussion can be a component of the site, but not the sole purpose. Sites produced by individuals or solely meant to provide a platform for individual journalists or writers also don’t qualify.
Can small, independent news companies use the Trust Indicators?
Yes, and they’ll reap the same benefits as large ones. The first set of companies to use the Trust Indicators worked together to iron out the technical and visual aspects of this ambitious effort to provide consistent transparency to the public. Over time, more and more news companies are joining  the movement. INN Labs, once part of the Institute for Nonprofit News, built our WordPress VIP-accepted plugin to help validated Trust Project participants implement the Trust Indicators on their sites. We also have  documentation for building the Trust Indicators in Drupal, another popular content management system.
Do you charge news organizations to participate?
No. News organizations volunteer their time as we collaborate to implement the Trust Indicators and build our transparency movement. The materials produced by our collaboration are available to all reputable news companies that apply, pass our review, and agree to abide by the group’s commitments and Trust Protocol.
How do tech companies like Google, Facebook and Bing use the Trust Indicators?
The Project’s Trust Indicators, easily recognized anywhere, are both available to the public on news pages and easily read by machines in the code that produces those pages. Google, Facebook, Bing use the indicators and their associated machine-readable signals in various ways to enhance their ability to differentiate reliable, trustworthy journalism from other information, and continue to develop new uses. Other organizations such as NewsGuard, a news literacy company; Nuzzel, a news aggregator; and PEN America use the Trust Indicators to help the public find trustworthy news with authority. Richard Gingras, vice president for news at Google, said, “The Trust Project’s required disclosures and clear definitions should help the public –  and Google’s systems – recognize and value quality journalism.” Gingras says the Trust Indicators can be helpful in guiding Google’s own internal evaluations of the quality of search results.  Facebook uses the Best Practices Trust Indicator in its process to index news Pages, among other uses, and Bing uses Trust Indicator labels to display whether an article is news, opinion or analysis, providing information that people need to understand an article’s context. The three technology companies rely on  Lehrman and the Trust Project consortium as an expert advisor in their effort to elevate accurate, dependable news in search and social media. 
How are you vetting the news organizations that show the Trust Indicators?
News sites that want to become part of the Trust Project must go through a multi-step approval process. Once they pass review, we work with them to implement the Trust Indicators. We check compliance on all approved news sites before they go live with the Trust Indicators and recheck them on an ad hoc basis. Approved and fully compliant sites may show the Trust Mark.
I’m a freelancer. Can I get a Trust Mark?
Not right now. The Trust Indicators are meant to enable people to quickly assess the trustworthiness of a story and are produced by publishers on their sites. If you’re a regular contributor, you may want to ask your clients to create a journalist page for you as part of the Journalist  Information Trust Indicator.
How does our site apply?
First, fill out this form to get started. If your site passes an initial review, then  follow these steps: 
  1. Attend a prospective partners’ meeting to learn more details. 
  2. Fill out an application and provide supporting details. 
  3. After your application is reviewed by our review team, you will receive notice whether you qualify for full or conditional approval. If not, you will receive an explanation.
  4. Once approved, we place you in an implementation cohort, where we guide you and other news sites in adding the Trust Indicators to your site(s). 
  5. After a final compliance check, you may go live with the Trust Indicators and use our Trust Mark. 
  6. As part of the Trust Project consortium, we will ask you to stay involved in updating the Trust Indicators and addressing other industry concerns.
I’m on board! How do I get involved?
I represent a news company. How do I join?   Now is a great time to talk with us about participating. Look over our Resources for Publisherss and fill out our Welcome Form. I’m a supporter. How can I help? Make news more transparent: We want to learn more and do more. Help the Trust Project conduct more reader interviews and develop better tools by donating to our work. Donate here. Become a Trust Ambassador  Help newsrooms do a better job meeting people’s needs. Sign up for our updates. Let us contact you when we need to consult members of the public for interviews and other public engagement efforts. Sign up for our emails here.

Join our Cause

If you’re a news organization and want to join the Trust Project, use this form to let us know. Learn our requirements in our Resources section.

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