What we’re doing to improve trust in our journalism in 2020

We’re opening up our reporting process to our readers as part of a larger effort to be more transparent and inclusive.

Shadows cast on a sidewalk as marchers holding signs walk by

The death of George Floyd has renewed the discussion about systemic racism in America, with protests around the world confronting every facet of society to take a deep look in the mirror. (Sarah Hoffman/Crosscut)

The journalism industry is not an exception to America’s problem with systemic racism. 

In fact, we have a long history of advancing stereotypes and perpetuating many harmful narratives

These damaging outcomes are a  byproduct of journalistic standards that are otherwise well-designed to do good: staying unbiased, being fair, seeking out more than one side of the story, fact-checking and remaining independent of political or special interests. 

But what happens when, in pursuit of these lofty goals, we end up shutting out the very people who can provide the perspective needed to truly achieve them? 

A Black journalist can be sure of her ability to report fairly and accurately, but her sources, her readers — or even her bosses — often question it. The idea that a Black journalist can’t cover anti-racism topics “fairly” is a demonstration of a predominantly white point of view. 

And that’s just one of many ways that the traditional approach to journalism has excluded or misrepresented the experiences of many, especially people of color. 

In the past several weeks, newsrooms across the country have been publicly, painfully and rightfully confronted with their failures when it comes to both employees and readers of color — the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Los Angeles Times and more.

The Crosscut newsroom is in the process of examining our own policies and practices, including the diversity of our newsroom, and we’re taking a hard look at how we’re applying these journalistic standards to make sure critical perspectives aren’t left out in our pursuit of the truth. Our goal is to report reliable information and share enlightening storytelling that helps you better understand our region. 

For you, our readers, viewers and listeners, we have work to do in talking about trust and transparency. As we examine our internal practices, we also want to open a permanent line of communication and accountability so you can tell us: 

  • Do we clearly show how and why we report each story? What questions do you have about our reporting processes?
  • Does a journalist’s use of social media help you understand their work or does it cause you to question it? Send us examples. 
  • Does a story leave you with more unsatisfying questions than useful answers? 
  • Do we help you make up your mind about complex issues or understand a topic better?
  • Do you see a lack of representation in our sources? Do we miss points of view that are obvious to you? 

To be clear: We need your input because our mission is to earn and deepen trust, which is not the same thing as getting us all to agree. But if you find yourself unable to find credibility in what we say, we want to hear why and explore how we can do better.

We’ll be using this section and our weekly newsletter to frequently talk about these ideas, and we welcome your help in guiding what we talk about. Fill out the form below or email audience engagement manager Anne Christnovich to let us know what you think.

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Anne Christnovich is audience engagement manager at Crosscut. She and her team manage Crosscut’s social media accounts, run the reader-driven Northwest Wonders initiative, write Crosscut’s editorial newsletters, and generally work on ways to better connect readers with reporters.

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