Journalists are worried about trust… and 4 other big takeaways from ONA 17

Just got back from the Online News Association 2017 conference in Washington, DC!

From fake news possibly influencing the election to elected leaders referring to real journalism as fake news, trust in news could be at an all-time low in the United States. As someone who cares about reporting truth with fairness and balance, I’m deeply worried about the future of journalism. Based on what I heard at this year’s ONA, I’m not the only one.

Here are some of my takeaways from the conference about how to restore trust in this critical institution:

  1. Journalists should spend quality time in local communities.

    Asma Khalid (WBUR) made a strong argument against “parachuting” into towns and neighborhoods to get the story. It’s important to be present and listen, she said. Not only will sources appreciate it, but it just might change their opinion about reporters.

  2. Newsrooms should be as diverse as America.

    Journalists are supposed to ask questions on behalf of the nation, but according to Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times Magazine, an industry dominated by white men can’t represent all of the people. News companies must consider this as they make hiring decisions, she said.

  3. Be open about where you’re coming from.

    That’s from Rob Wijnberg, editor in chief of De Correspondent. Transparency about the writer behind the story makes for more honest journalism, he said. PBS Public Editor Madhulika Sikka said it’s impossible for reporters to be completely objective because they have to live their lives outside of work: “The point is to be fair.”

  4. Fact check with public data and citations.

    Government data and other trusted information makes it difficult for critics and politicians to dispute a story, said one panel. NPR combated one senator’s Twitter criticisms of a story by coolly tweeting the facts used in its reporting, said Mark Memmott. The senator backed down.

  5. Don’t cover everything.

    There’s something to be said for “strategic silence,” said CUNY’s Molly de Aguiar. Reporters should ask if they’re giving oxygen to a fraudulent claim, inadvertently reinforcing the disinformation, she said.

ONA Reception
Journalists let off some steam at the Newseum.

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