Deepen Trust With The Community Forum

Community newspapers must win the trust issue on their own.

Sorry, I guess I’ve read too many national studies about misinformation and readers losing confidence in “the media.”

It’s depressing.

Take the recent Media Insight Project report that found “not all Americans universally embrace core journalism values.” The major study then noted that doubts exist on just what is the job of journalists. (The Project is a collaboration of the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.)

Add in CivicScience’s recent check-up on Americans’ news consumption in which the headline says “Distrust in News Media Ticks Up, Concern About Misinformation Is Strong”. CivicScience checks quarterly on the news sources Americans trust most to deliver unbiased news.

Community newspapers, forget looking for your score that’s jammed in with others.

Besides.

By the time the survey responders consider newspapers, they’ve already been distracted by their feelings — I mean, beliefs — about big media: Broadcast network news, cable network news, national newspapers, and digital-only sites. Community newspapers are further pushed out of the picture by getting lumped in with “regional newspapers.”

As I said, forget it.

Plus, you’ll only feel bad because “distrust has rebounded back to pre-pandemic levels.”

Enough.

Here’s my advice to community newspapers: Don’t let anyone get between you and your readers. The only survey or conversation that counts is the one YOU conduct with your readers and the community at large.

Be the Community Forum — a civil, civic conversation on issues of importance.

Embrace the Community Forum strategy to strengthen connections with readers. Control the narrative about how newspapers are indispensable. Engage readers to deepen their trust in your brand of local journalism.

DO IT DIRECTLY.

Regular readers of this blog know that a priority of The Relevance Project is to help newspaper trade associations and their members become THE Community Forum.

Why?

Trusted local journalism needs greater community support to adapt, survive and, yes, grow. The good thing is we know there’s a crucial need for our reporting of news, providing vital information and publishing fact-based commentary on current events. We saw that big time during the pandemic.

Part of the challenge is that community newspapers are being squeezed by the rigors (and challenges) of the print franchise and chaos of social media fed largely by corporate giants.

Still.

Local newspapers have got to carve out more time to be the Community Forum.

Our Relevance needs renewal in a turbulent world.

Let me propose one route that follows my opening rant about “the media” studies. In launching a Community Forum initiative, start with these Phase One Topics:

  • What is the future of your local newspaper?
  • How can we better serve our readers?
  • Has the pandemic challenge changed us for the better (as a trusted news source)?
  • How do we build trust with our news coverage? (Why should you trust us?)
  • How can we be more Relevant to you? (My favorite.)

Add your own.

Use the invited answers and meaningful exchanges to plot improvements in coverage — and the next conversations. For example: Reward reader interest in boosting newspapers with your renewed efforts in helping the community solve its problems.

Keep at it.

Don’t let the national-stage noise distract you.

You are not “the media.”

You should be THE Community Forum.

One more point:

Cheers to the state and provincial press associations that help their members achieve it.

–Tom Silvestri


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