Winning Back Reader Trust Starts with Establishing Credibility
- Honest reporting takes time, learned skill and money — and it’s much harder to do when it’s valued on par with other types of content
- Journalists lack a way to differentiate their work from the work of those who summarize or aggregate others’ work without doing actual reporting to uncover new information;
- Resource-strapped writers rush to put out content and produce articles that don’t adhere to the most robust journalistic standards;
- Additionally, there are some bad actors who lie to provoke. They pass off sensationalism as fact-based journalism;
- This creates a self-perpetuating cycle in which few people collect and report new facts, and false or incomplete information gets repeated over and over without being challenged.
Readers Often Look to the Wrong Signals for Credibility
- People have a hard time differentiating between a well-reported story that uncovers new information and clickbait / aggregate content;
- When dealing with an unfamiliar source, readers often rely on factors like the appearance of the site or the length of a given article to gauge credibility;
- In general, they’re more likely to subscribe to a small number of well-established publications that they perceive as trustworthy based on their legacies — even though those aren’t the only places for quality reporting.
Introducing Civil Credibility Indicators
Our goal is to provide greater transparency into the reporting process. We’ve identified the following four credibility indicators to help readers better assess information as it’s reported — each of which will be highlighted as applicable to a given article. Writers will be able to select the indicators that apply to their piece, and the selections will be verified by their editors.
The article contains new information that was gathered firsthand by the reporter, as opposed to aggregating information / insights from an already published report. This includes directly interviewing sources and research / analysis of primary source documents.
The Newsmaker has been verified as having a specialized knowledge of the subject covered in this article.
On the Ground Reporting
The Newsmaker behind the article was physically present to report an article with this tag from the location(s) it concerns.
The article cites other, verifiable sources, all of which have been thoroughly fact-checked and are in accordance with the Civil Constitution. This document is overseen by the community, including the non-profit Civil Foundation.
What Our Credibility Indicator Dashboard Looks Like
We want to inspire more reader confidence that the information presented is factual and thoroughly reported. We want to encourage our community to read with a well-trained eye, to be unafraid to ask critical, probing questions of journalism, on Civil’s platform and beyond. Was an article reported locally or from afar? Where does the information cited come from? Is this original reporting, secondhand analysis, or both?
Civil readers will be more empowered to follow up on sources and independently verify information, instead of simply being told by someone else that they should trust a given article. As a result, we believe that Citizens will feel more confident acting on information from a given article — whether that’s simply sharing it with their friends and family, or changing their vote on a given issue due to newly discovered information.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on these Credibility Indicators, and the role we hope they’ll play in promoting greater media literacy worldwide. Do our research and insights resonate with your own experience? Would you use these criteria to evaluate articles you read in the future? Sound off in the comments section below, or get in touch with us directly.