The Trust Project Explained
How it works
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
- Attend a prospective partners’ meeting to learn more details.
- Fill out an application and provide supporting details.
- 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.
- 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).
- After a final compliance check, you may go live with the Trust Indicators and use our Trust Mark.
- As part of the Trust Project consortium, we will ask you to stay involved in updating the Trust Indicators and addressing other industry concerns.
Join our Cause
If you are not a member of the media and appreciate the work we are doing at The Trust Project, follow us on social and share #TheTrustProject with your peers.