In a bid to provide more transparency around its reporting process, Reuters has launched Backstory, a new initiative to help readers understand how news stories have been produced.
Steve Adler, editor-in-chief, Reuters, told Journalism.co.uk that the project stemmed from recently raised questions surrounding trust in the media within the misinformation ecosystem.
"There is so much negative feeling about the media right now that we felt it would be useful to not only show people we are trustworthy, but to show them how we go about doing things," he said.
"If there is an interesting question about how we got a particular story or how we thought about it, Backstory gives us a good opportunity to share that information with the reader."
Readers will get an explanation, either as a statement or Q&A with a Reuters journalist, which will explore how the story came to light, why the journalists wanted to pursue it, and what measures were taken to verify the story and get to the truth.
For example, the most recent Backstory focuses on how reporters Josh Schneyer and Mike Pell discovered how toxic lead is harming children in neighbourhoods across Los Angeles.
It addressed how they pushed to collect previously unreleased data on blood lead levels in various areas in the state of California, which led them to find surprising results of at-risk communities in both rich and poor areas.
On another investigation, Reuters conducted a survey of nearly 14,000 people asking them to consider a series of statements Donald Trump has made on various issues.
U.S. polling editor Chris Kahn and his polling team had to ensure they framed the research to spot and account for any hidden biases of voters, which the Backstory addressed.
The explanation was able to explore the methodology behind the survey, and aimed to subsequently show audiences that they were fair in their investigation.
"There have been times where we decided we couldn't do it for particular articles as it might explain a confidential source or put someone in danger," Adler said.
It isn't always possible to produce a Backstory, he added, but where the team can, they will try to find the most interesting angle to show audiences their methods of reporting.
"One of the things that troubles me and people in the industry is that we are a profession with professional standards, trying to be accurate, carefully sourced, unbiased, get fair comment, and the question is does the public understand that?
"Or because of the accusations, do they think we just make things up, not care how good the sources are, or publish things for the sake of it?"
"What we are trying to do is show people that's not what we do, that we have a professional set of standards, and these are the insights that show how we go about getting information," he said.
In addition to Backstory, Reuters will link to its governing values, the Trust Principles, at the bottom of all news stories on Reuters.com.
Free daily newsletter
- Could “prebunking” be the cure to helping audiences spot false news?
- Indifference, not hostility, is the main barrier to building trust in news
- Ofcom: BBC One, ITV and Facebook are the most used news sources in the UK. In that order
- Exploring the fight against misinformation
- Ethiopian fact-checkers wage an unequal war against Facebook misinformation