Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism joins the Trust Project to increase transparency and trust in the news

Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Riley Vetterkind interviews Chuck Ripp at Ripp's Dairy Valley farm in Dane County, Wis., on Sept 12, 2017. Vetterkind was an investigative reporting intern at the Center who wrote stories about immigrant labor on Wisconsin's dairy farms, as well as a series about the state's GPS monitoring system.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism today announced it has joined the Trust Project, an effort to increase transparency and trust in journalism. Starting today, readers will see specially designed Trust Indicators linked from every new story the Center publishes.

The Trust Project is a global network of news organizations that has developed transparency standards to help news readers assess the quality and credibility of journalism. The Trust Indicators are a set of enhancements to participating sites that spell out editorial practices and policies, and provide additional context. On the Center’s site, readers can find the Indicators on the page “About the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism,” and also linked from each new story.

The core set of Trust Indicators was developed by leaders from 80 news organizations and informed by extensive interviews with readers in the United States and Europe. They describe an organization’s commitment to ethics, inclusive reporting, fact-checking and correcting errors, information on journalists’ backgrounds and how they do their work. In addition, the Indicators denote the type of information that a person is reading — such as news, opinion or analysis.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Managing editor Dee J. Hall interviews Bianca Shaw at the State Capitol on Jan. 31, 2018, for a story about Wisconsin's FoodShare program.

While some news organizations already incorporate and promote these features, the Trust Project has helped to standardize the information, structure it for the public to easily find, and make it available for search engines to read.

Every new story published on WisconsinWatch.org will feature the Trust Project logo and a button that invites the public to read the Center’s policies. In some cases, there will be an additional button that will reveal details about how and why the Center did a report, under a button labeled “Behind the Story.”

Under the policies button, readers can review the Center’s editorial standards and practices and policies on ethics, diversity, corrections, unnamed sources and fact-checking. Readers will also find links to information about how the Center is staffed and funded and its mission statement: “To increase the quality, quantity and understanding of investigative journalism to foster an informed citizenry and strengthen democracy.”

Alexandra Hall / WPR/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Digital and multimedia director Coburn Dukehart shows her camera to Thomas and Liam Hernandez during a reporting trip for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The Center was reporting on immigrant labor on dairy farms.

The “Behind the Story” button will lead to more information about who reported, edited, fact-checked and copy-edited the story, as well as statements in some cases about why the Center pursued the project and how it conducted the investigation. Notices of any corrections will also be posted here.

Andy Hall, the Center’s executive director, said news organizations in the Trust Project provide an important defense against online misinformation. The network’s news coverage reaches an estimated 217 million people a month.

“The public needs to be able to determine which news sources to trust as we all seek to understand critical issues in our communities, and potential solutions to problems,” Hall said. “We’re proud to be aboard.”

In incorporating the Trust Indicators, the Center joins more than 120 news sites around the world that are displaying the first digital transparency standard for news that helps people easily recognize the ingredients in trustworthy journalism — much like nutritional labels. Two studies have found that the Trust Indicators help increase readers’ trust in news sites and the journalists who produce the work.  

“Today’s internet readers get their information from a multitude of sources, often without knowing anything about the provider,” said Ann Gripper, executive editor of The Mirror in London, one of the participating news organizations. “News organizations need to make it as easy as possible for readers to understand their values and credibility. Our research shows that readers do care about the people and brand providing their news — and giving them that information increases their trust.”

The Indicators also are embedded in the article and site code — providing the first standardized technical language offering information about participating sites. Partners in the technology sector including Google, Bing, Facebook, Nuzzel, PEN America and NewsGuard will use the Indicators to surface, display or better label journalism on their platforms.

Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Alexandra Hall interviews Armando, a Mexican worker on the Rosenholm farm in Cochrane, Wisconsin. The owner of the farm, John Rosenow is a dairy farmer who says the Wisconsin dairy business could not operate without immigrant labor. Hall was the WPR Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow for the Center in 2017.

The Trust Project was founded by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman and is hosted by Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. It is funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Google, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Markkula Foundation.

“The 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.”

The news partners joining the Trust Project today more than double the number of existing organizations implementing the Trust Indicators. Trust Indicators can be seen on news sites in the United States, Canada and Europe, including the BBC, the Washington Post, The Toronto Star, The Economist and SkyNews. Companies in the process of adopting Trust Indicators include FRONTLINE, El Mundo and the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis.

INN Labs, part of the Institute for Nonprofit News, worked with the Center to upgrade its site to add the new tools.

For more information on the Trust Project, visit TheTrustProject.org and read their press release about the expansion of the project.

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