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08 Oct 2018

Major Effort to Increase Trust in News Achieves Widespread Adoption

Oct. 9, 2018 –  In a concerted fight against online misinformation, 20 leading news organizations have joined the Trust Project’s efforts to increase transparency and trust in the news media, extending the reach of the global network’s Trust Indicators to 217 million people a month.

As the result of this major expansion, today more than 120 news sites around the world are showing the Project’s Trust Indicators – the first transparency standard for news that helps people easily recognize the commitments and expertise behind trustworthy journalism – with dozens more sites in progress. Like nutritional labels, 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 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.

“Today’s internet readers get their information from a multitude of sources, often without knowing anything about the provider. News organizations need to make it as easy as possible for readers to understand their values and credibility,” said Ann Gripper, executive editor of The Mirror. “Our research shows that readers do care about the people and brand providing their news – and giving them that information increases their trust. We are proud of our journalism and the Trust Indicators have helped our readers understand why.”

Adding to Trust Project’s momentum are new uses of the Trust Indicators by partners in the technology sector. Google, Bing, Facebook, Nuzzel, PEN America and NewsGuard are using them to surface, display or better label journalism on their platforms.

Founded by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman, the Trust Project is hosted by Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.  It is funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Google, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Markkula Foundation.

“The Trust Indicators are gaining traction as the global industry standard for transparency among newsrooms and beyond,” Lehrman said.  “The U.S. elections draw into sharp relief a global issue: the need for credible, honest and accurate news is more urgent than ever. Now, with the Trust Project’s growth, millions of people can use the Trust Indicators and feel secure they can recognize the trustworthy stories that journalists produce every day.”

While each Indicator is visible to users on the pages of the Project’s news partners, it is also embedded in the article and site code for machines to read – providing the first, standardized technical language that offers contextual information about news sites’ commitments to transparency.

“We’re pleased to see hundreds of news sites move forward with the Trust Indicators. Transparency is important to building trust and trust is important to building engagement. It is gratifying to see the research by Reach prove those points,” said Richard Gingras, vice president of News at Google.  “The Trust Indicators are valuable to assess the relative authoritativeness of news organizations and authors. We’re looking forward to developing new ways to use the indicators.”

Google stated that the “Type of Work” indicator is valuable in determining whether to show that an article by a Trust Project publisher is a standard news story, opinion, analysis or an explainer article.

When Facebook launched its process to index news Pages, they worked with the Trust Project to make it easy for any publisher to add optional information about their Page, such as links to fact-checking, ethics and corrections policies, which are all part of the “Best Practices” Trust Indicator.

“We turned to the Trust Project as a resource to help inform our approach,” said Mollie Vandor, product manager at Facebook. “The research that went into the Trust Indicators gave us a solid starting point for this work. We plan to continue working with the Trust Project to explore different ways of displaying this information, so people can have a better understanding of the news they see on Facebook.”

The additional news partners more than double the number of existing news organizations implementing the Trust Indicators. In the United States and Canada, the Trust Indicators can now be seen on sites hosted by the Bay Area News Group, CBC News, Heavy.com, The Toronto Star, TEGNA, Voice of Orange County, The Walrus and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism; and in Europe, on those of Corriere della Sera (Italy), El País (Spain), Il Sole 24 Ore. (Italy),  Kathimerini (Greece), Orb Media (International), SciDev.Net (International), and SkyNews (United Kingdom). Companies in the process of showing Trust Indicators include Canadian Press, FRONTLINE PBS (U.S.), El Mundo (Spain), Star Tribune (U.S.) and Zeit Online (Germany).

The Trust Indicators have been available since last year on sites owned by the BBC (United Kingdom), dpa news agency (Germany), The Economist (United Kingdom), FourFourTwo (United Kingdom) Globe and Mail (Canada), Hearst Television, Independent Journal Review, Mic, La Repubblica and La Stampa (Italy), Stuff (United Kingdom), Reach Plc (United Kingdom), and the Washington Post.

INN Labs, part of the Institute for Nonprofit News, built and maintains a WordPress VIP-accepted plugin to help validated Trust Project  participants implement the Trust Indicators on their sites.

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The Trust Indicators

Created by leaders from 80 news organizations and informed by dozens of interviews with readers, the Trust Indicators clearly describe an organization’s commitments to ethics, inclusive reporting, corrections and other standards, as well as the journalists’ backgrounds, and how they do their work. In addition, the Indicators also clearly denote the type of information that a person is reading – whether it is news, opinion, analysis or promotional content from advertisers. Two studies have found that the Trust Indicators help to increase readers’ trust in news sites and the journalists who produce news stories.  

A description of each of the Trust Indicators is available on the Trust Project’s website.

In addition to the examples of Google and Facebook above, tech platforms, news distributors and media literacy efforts are now implementing these tools in the following ways:

Bing: The search engine uses the “Type of Work”  Trust Indicator to display whether an article is news, opinion or analysis, providing information that people need to understand an article’s context;

NewsGuard: The news literacy company uses the Trust Indicators as a source for rating the transparency and accountability of participating news and information sites;

Nuzzel: The news aggregator uses the Trust Indicators in its new NuzzelRank platform, which ranks the level of authority of a  publication;

PEN America: The organization is partnering with the Trust Project to produce a new digital resource that uses the Trust Indicators to assess the transparency of leading national and regional news organizations.

For more information on the Trust Project, visit TheTrustProject.org.

About the Trust Project

The Trust Project is a global network of news organizations building Trust Indicators 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.Led by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman, it is hosted by Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Over several years, the Project interviewed people in the United States and Europe to find out what’s important to them when it comes to news and what makes a story trustworthy. Lehrman took that research and worked with top news leaders around the world to design and develop a digital system that meets those needs: the Trust Indicators.

About Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University

Founded in 1986 with a seed grant and initial endowment from Linda and A.C. “Mike” Markkula Jr., the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics 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. Through its website and international collaborations, the Center brings ethical decision-making resources to the wider world. For more information see www.scu.edu/ethics/.

About Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry, and theology; and law degrees and engineering doctoral degrees. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu. 

Contact: Deborah Lohse,  dlohse@scu.edu, 408-554-5121