Editor's note: This guest editorial was written by Kelly Boldan, editor of the West Central Tribune since 2001. He is a member of the Forum Communication company's Editorial Advisory Board and was previously the editor at the Bemidji Pioneer, a sister newspaper with Forum Communications Co.

Trust in the media has been waning over the past decade in many countries and certainly in the United States. This public trust has been studied since 2012 by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, an Oxford University-based research center and think tank.

A startling revelation found the United States was dead last among the 46 countries surveyed among 92,000 news consumers, according to a Reuters report published this summer. The report did find improvement in some countries, likely due to COVID-19 coverage, but the U.S rating remained flat.

The numbers show that we — as journalists in the media — have a lot of work to do to rebuild that trust.

In this digital media world, we live in a constant flood of misinformation from social media to websites. It is up to "principled journalism" to step forward and earn the public trust.

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There is an ongoing effort within the news industry to embrace a new set of transparency standards to help people assess the quality and reliability of journalism work.

Our media company — Forum Communications Co. — and our editor team are committed to improving upon that trust with our readers, both in our digital, print and other products. It will not be an easy task and will take a continued effort by all of our journalists.

Forum Communications has applied to become a News Partner with The Trust Project, a consortium of top news companies around the world dedicated to "restoring the trusted role of the press in serving the public good." Our company's application is currently being reviewed by the project.

The Trust Project, founded by Sally Lehrman, a journalist and former director of the Santa Clara University's journalism ethics program, was launched in April 2017. The project's news partners have committed to "transparency, impartiality and accuracy."

"Our news partner sites are deepening their dedication to the fundamentals of journalism, including reporting with integrity, honesty and inclusion at heart," Lehrman said in a recent news release.

News partners focus on building upon the eight Trust Indicators developed and identified as key factors by The Trust Project. These indicators then help news organizations hold themselves accountable and dedicate themselves to the public interest.

Those Trust Indicators include:

  • Best practices (standards and policies).
  • Journalist expertise.
  • Type of work labels.
  • References for claims.
  • Methods of reporting.
  • Local expertise and sourcing.
  • Diverse voices and perspectives.
  • Actionable feedback (public engagement).

The eight Trust Indicators — together and individually — help show readers "who and what is behind a news story so people can assess for themselves whether it comes from a credible source," according to The Trust Project.

The Trust Project's News Partners strive to provide:

Truthful, verified news and information in a context that gives them meaning;

Forums for civil exchanges and greater understanding of various viewpoints, with fairness in mind;

Stories, information and ideas that reflect diverse types of communities and their interests and views.

Research has shown that news audiences don’t always fully understand how journalism works. So journalists must work to utilize opportunities to demonstrate credibility by explaining our news processes, coverage goals and journalism ethics.

And we as journalists must also listen closely to the concerns and needs of our audiences and communities.

At Forum Communications, we already embrace many of these indicators, but we know there is work to do. We must focus on the core ideals of journalism; strive to be truthful, open, honest and accessible; admit our mistakes; be respectful of differences and, last but not least, be consistent.

Research has shown that when the Trust Indicators are present, news organizations can improve their trustworthiness and reliability, which in turn, can improve confidence in individual journalists as well.

As we proceed with training and implementation of these Trust Indicators, we will work to keep our readers updated on our progress.