Santana: News Transparency Matters

We believe in transparency and accountability.

As a news organization, we have aggressively held our elected leaders to the highest ethical standards over the last decade of publishing, even heading into court when necessary to uphold our First Amendment rights.

We also believe news must be transparent and accountable.

Since our launch, we embraced a nonprofit business model to offer residents and readers the highest level of transparency regarding our funding and also led industry efforts – such as my serving on the board of directors for the Institute for Nonprofit News – to create and bolster best practices in our industry.

Today, Voice of OC is among more than 120 leading news organizations worldwide bolstering the Trust Project, a new standard for journalism that allows readers to judge the transparency of news organizations.

Like nutritional labels, a series of Trust Indicators offer readers and web search engines clarity on who and what is behind a news story so that people can easily assess whether it comes from a credible source.

Founded by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman, the Trust Project is hosted by Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics – a place we’ve all as journalists regularly tapped for advice and comment on ethical matters and conflicts facing elected leaders.

The Trust Project is funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Google, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Markkula Foundation.

We worked hard as a newsroom over this past year to ensure our site includes all of the Trust Indicators alongside INN Labs, part of the Institute for Nonprofit News, which built and now maintains a WordPress VIP-accepted plugin to help validate the Trust Project.

“Trust Indicators are gaining traction as the global industry standard for transparency among newsrooms and beyond,” Lehrman said. “The U.S. elections draw into sharp relief a global issue: the need for credible, honest and accurate news is more urgent than ever. Now, with the Trust Project’s growth, millions of people can use the Trust Indicators and feel secure they can recognize the trustworthy stories that journalists produce every day.”

While each Trust Indicator is visible to users on the pages of the Project’s news partners, it is also embedded in the article and site code for machines to read – providing the first, standardized technical language that offers contextual information about news sites’ commitments to transparency.

“Transparency is important to building trust and trust is important to building engagement,” said Richard Gingras, vice president of News at Google. “Trust Indicators are valuable to assess the relative authoritativeness of news organizations and authors.”

Google stated that the “Type of Work” indicator is especially valuable in determining whether to show that an article by a Trust Project publisher is a standard news story, opinion, analysis or an explainer article.

When Facebook launched its process to index news Pages, they worked with the Trust Project to make it easy for any publisher to add optional information about their Page, such as links to fact-checking, ethics and corrections policies, which are all part of the “Best Practices” Trust Indicator.

“We turned to the Trust Project as a resource to help inform our approach,” said Mollie Vandor, product manager at Facebook. “The research that went into the Trust Indicators gave us a solid starting point for this work. We plan to continue working with the Trust Project to explore different ways of displaying this information, so people can have a better understanding of the news they see on Facebook.”

Today’s additional news partners more than double the number of existing news organizations implementing the Trust Indicators.

Besides VOC, in the United States and Canada, the Trust Indicators can now be seen on sites hosted by the Bay Area News Group, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Heavy.com, The Star, TEGNA, Walrus and Wisconsin Watch; and in Europe, on those of Corriere della Sera (Italy), El Pais (Spain), Il Sole 24 (Italy), Kathimerini (Greece), Orb Media (International), SciDev.Net (International), and SkyNews (United Kingdom). Companies in the process of showing Trust Indicators include Canadian Press Agency, FRONTLINE (U.S.), El Mundo (Spain), Star Tribune (U.S.) and Zeit Online (Germany).

The Trust Indicators have been available since last year on sites owned by the BBC (United Kingdom), DPA news agency (Germany), The Economist (United Kingdom), FourFourTwo (United Kingdom) Globe and Mail (Canada), Hearst Television, Independent Journal Review, Mic, La Repubblica and La Stampa (Italy), Stuff (United Kingdom), Reach Plc (United Kingdom), and the Washington Post.