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The Emerald sports desk meets during an all-staff meeting on April 21, 2019. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

Over the past few years, journalists and the public alike have suffered due to poor public trust in news media. Public trust hit a historic low of 32% in 2016, according to a Gallup poll. By 2019, another Gallup poll showed that while trust had risen, it remained at only 41%. This environment of mistrust has led to several high-profile cases of protests against student journalism. 

In response to these statistics and the current climate of student journalism, the Daily Emerald wants to reverse that trend, starting in our own community. 

The Daily Northwestern, a well-respected, student-run newspaper, faced blowback from members of Northwestern University’s student body in November 2019 as a result of the paper’s coverage of campus protests against former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photojournalists from The Daily Northwestern published photos from the event on social media, including photos that showed protesters’ faces. Student activists said the photos were invasive and put students at risk.

The Daily Northwestern journalists were legally and ethically within their rights to publish photos taken in a public area, but because the campus community at Northwestern wasn’t familiar with journalistic practice and didn’t feel respected by the coverage, backlash followed.

The Daily Northwestern story teaches an important lesson: For the public to trust you, it is not enough to be a good journalist. You must actively earn trust. And as the University of Oregon’s  largest independent student publication, it’s the Daily Emerald’s duty to do so.

The Emerald Trust Project is our solution to actively earn the trust of the UO community over time. It strives to increase transparency, inclusion and trust between members of the community and those who report the news.

The project includes inter-newsroom aspects, such as holding ourselves accountable through the corrections log. We will also clarify language in our reporting to promote transparency and show how our reporters gathered the information they report.

The Daily Emerald is also beginning public projects to reduce the distance between community members and newsroom staff. The first major Emerald Trust Project event of winter term will be “Meet the Daily Emerald.” Details will be announced on our social media. 

Daily Emerald staff developed the Emerald Trust Project by working with experts in news media trust building, media studies and community engagement. A few of the professionals the Daily Emerald staff contacted were SOJC Professor Lisa Heyamoto, co-author of The 32 Percent Project, a study about earning public trust; SOJC Professor Dean Mundy, faculty advisor to the UO chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; and Ashley Alvarado, Southern California Public Radio’s director of community engagement; as well as members of the UO community.

The Emerald Trust Project can be found in its entirety on the Daily Emerald website. We are actively seeking public feedback on how we can continue to improve and better serve the UO community. 

For questions about the Emerald Trust Project, contact Coordinator of Equity & Inclusion C. Francis O’Leary; Associate News Editor Gina Scalpone; News Editor Hannah Kanik or Editor-in-Chief Michael Tobin.

Emerald Trust Project

Mission: The Emerald Trust Project is an initiative by the Daily Emerald newsroom to increase transparency, inclusion and trust between members of the community and those who report the news.

New Emerald Trust Project Goals and Strategies:

  1. Reporter Tabling

    1. To meet new and diverse sources, members of our newsroom will table at the EMU and other locations every Wednesday with the goal of meeting community members, developing story ideas and sources and discussing news and journalism with the public.

  2. Transparency in Reporting

    1. To increase transparency, our reporters will include the manner in which they got information in their writing. Where appropriate, our reporters will explain their process and why their story is important in a transparency box at the end of the story.

      1. For example, “The Daily Emerald made a public records request to acquire the documents,” or, “Smith said in an interview with the Daily Emerald.”

      2. An example of a transparency box can be found at the end of this story on Governor Kate Brown’s appointment of the student representative to the UO board of trustees. 

  3. Meet the Daily Emerald 

    1. To break down barriers between us and the community at large, we will host an event once per term where community members and Daily Emerald staff can meet in an informal environment.

      1. We will provide food for community members and reporters will attend to hear the public’s concerns, talk about their roles as reporters and encourage reader engagement with news media.

  4. Community Input

    1. To include the community in our efforts to improve, the Daily Emerald has created trust@dailyemerald.com, which is managed by Coordinator of Equity & Inclusion C. Francis O’Leary. Community members can send suggestions and comments on the Emerald Trust Project and how we can continue to improve.

  5. Continual Improvement

    1. To avoid complacency, Daily Emerald editors will revisit and revise this plan at the beginning of each school year, as well as when situations dictate that we adjust our practices.

Ongoing Strategies:

  1. Corrections Standards

    1. To ensure high standards in our reporting, there is a page on the Daily Emerald website displaying corrections the Daily Emerald has made over the last academic year. If readers find a factual error in any part of the Daily Emerald, they can visit that page to fill out a form with the correction or they can email corrections@dailyemerald.com.

  2. Who We Are Wednesday

    1. To introduce the Daily Emerald to the community, we have been hosting Who We Are Wednesday, a weekly digital feature designed to connect with our audience by introducing the members of our editorial staff and newsroom. Who We Are Wednesday appears each week in our DailyE newsletter and on social media. The sign-up can be found on our website. 

  3. How It’s Reported

    1. To offer insight into the Daily Emerald’s reporting practices, the Daily Emerald has a podcast called “How It’s Reported.” The series is designed to illuminate our reporters’ practices and build trust between us and our audience to promote informed and engaged listeners.