"We need to optimise journalism for trust," said Jay Rosen, professor at New York University, speaking at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia today (13 April).
"This is a direction in which we who care about international journalism have to move."
As the director of the Membership Puzzle Project, which focuses on membership models in news as opposed to digital paywalls, Rosen believes that quality journalism will only survive if news organisations no longer rely on building a stable relationship with audiences through their credibility alone.
"Good practice is not enough," he explained.
Instead, news organisations should be optimised for trust rather than scoops, clicks or time on site – as long as they combine this with high standards of verification.
After all, it is easy to get audiences to trust you if you present as news only those things that support their existing beliefs, or demonise the people they deeply resent.
After all, Rosen explained, there is polling to indicate that President Trump is more trusted than the news media by Republicans in the United States.
"In publishing news, the hard part isn't to stay in business, it is to stay in journalism," he said, quoting the british publisher Harold Evans.
"That means verifying information and giving a fair description of events.
"We have to design the modern news organisation so that it is easier for people to trust it and form a relationship with news sites whose work they value, otherwise Facebook, Apple and maybe Google News will own that relationship."
.@jayrosen_nyu explains how the membership model at @decorrespondent helps to 'optimise for trust'. The audience has more power now, so the quality of your journalism 'will depend on the strength of your relationship with the people that recognise and value your work'. #ijf18 pic.twitter.com/kbRC3mah3X— Caroline Scott (@CarolineScott91) April 13, 2018
So, how does a news organisation 'optimise for trust'? Here's Rosen's list:
1. When readers can understand both the news story they are reading and the data policy they bought into when they signed up;
2. When they know stories will be accurately reported, but corrected if there are any errors;
3. When audiences can read about their reporters in depth – information that includes where they are coming from and what motivates them;
4. When the 'About' tab on your site explains your organisation's reporting priorities and where you're spending resources and why;
5. When audiences can feel you are getting better at listening to the internet;
6. When audiences can add their knowledge to yours to make for a better product;
7. When the ability to check the validity of criticism is considered a skill that everyone has to be good at;
8. When educating people with your journalism is joined to educating them about journalism;
9 When reporters share their learning curve and readers share their expertise;
10. When the people who value the work elect to support it financially and want it to spread to the people it was made for.
Rosen, who has been working with De Correspondent for the past year while it expands into English publishing, referenced the organisation's successful embrace of a membership model, which sees 60,000 people a year actively participating in its coverage, sharing their expertise with journalists.
"There is a shift in the journalism world which we must embrace," Rosen said.
"Audiences have more power now, because they have more choice and are paying more of the costs as the advertising subsidy declines. Because of this, the makers of the product need to listen to them more.
"The quality of your journalism will increasingly depend on the strength of your relationship with the people that recognise and value your work."
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