How do we know the press can be trusted? And should it be?
During this presidential election year, it’s a question that seems to be coming up more often as candidates react to stories that cast them in an unfavorable light. And now, with the advent of social media, they and their campaign staffs can go around reporters directly to their followers and friends – Donald Trump has 8 million of the former on his Twitter account.
From where I sit, however, I haven’t seen a major mistake by any of the journalists covering the candidates. From Benghazi and email-gate to Trump U. and bankrupt casinos, the coverage of the major flaws in the Clinton and Trump resumes has held up under some withering personal attacks by the campaigns. If it is fair, balanced, accurate and complete, it ought to be trusted, and so far it has met those tests. I’d like to see more coverage of the candidates’ positions on major policies and how they would carry them out, but there’s still a long way to go to November.
As an editor of a community newspaper, I don’t have the luxury of an arm’s length view of our news coverage. I am intimately involved in its preparation and execution, so I have to turn to outsiders to get a sense of whether it can be trusted, using the standards laid out above.
One group that performs that task is the Editorial Advisory Board, which has just adjourned for the year. Bill Wade, Joan Brundige-Baker, John Kistler, Mary Coday Edwards, Jeremy Krones and Carol Dykes might have thought they were only helping to formulate editorials. But because the discussion necessarily dissected our coverage as the basis for forming opinions, it was invaluable in helping me see where we got it right but also how we could have done it better. My hearty thanks to them all. We’ll be seating a new board when a new term begins in the fall, so look for notices in late August.
I also sit in on meetings by a board convened by Publisher Don Rowley that regularly solicits feedback on our news, sports, editorials – even the comics. And in the summer, I convene an informal coffee klatch of readers each Monday morning, the better to pick their brains on what’s new and how to cover it. The kickoff this summer is tomorrow, June 6, at 7:30 a.m. in the Daily Sun boardroom – you provide your own coffee, I’ll provide the doughnuts.
Next week I’ll review a major new study of what makes people trust and rely on news – or not.