World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Building trust in the newsroom: Trying to keep up with the digital pace of change

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Building trust in the newsroom: Trying to keep up with the digital pace of change

After many years of digital disruption, the public are increasingly turning their back on journalism, with many feeling the news to be no longer relevant to them, often out of line with their values and out of touch with their lives.

The surge of disinformation online has also contributed towards a lack of trust in the profession as audiences struggle to differentiate between truth, myths and lies they see on websites and social platforms.

So how can publishers respond to these threats and fight to re-establish journalism as a trustworthy profession and public institution, worthy of audience’s attention?

“We have to ask ourselves what kind of public connection we have with the people that we serve,” said Rasmus Nielsen, Director, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, UK, speaking at the 71st World News Media Congress today (1st June).

This is fundamental, he explained, as we are losing the battle for attention right now, with US audiences only spending 3 per cent of their time on digital media with news and information (ComScore 2018).

Nielson explained this is particularly worrying, as audiences are more likely to trust news they already use – the 2018 RISJ Digital News Report found 51 per cent of audiences to trust publications they engage with, yet only 44 per cent of audiences trust news overall.

The report found trust in news content to be based not just on editorial practices such as accuracy and transparency, but also factors like whether they had been recommended to read content from a friend or family member, or whether the publisher was seen to be authentic and deal with mistakes in a respectable fashion.

“Remember that journalism exists in the context of its audience,” Nielsen said.

“Newsrooms now need to ask themselves how to earn, gain and retain people’s trust.”

Indeed Martha Ramos Sosa, Director General Editorial, Organización Editorial Mexicana in Mexico, explained that constant dialogue with the public is a necessity.

“We didn’t get feedback 20 years ago, we just made a print edition and hoped for the best – now they can talk to us and give their input, which in turn improves our content,” she said.

Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief of The Straits Times agreed, noting that his newsroom in Singapore will often invite subscribers into their offices to show them what they do and explain how the business works.

“You would be amazed at the questions they have – they were really interested to find out the workings of the newsroom,” he said.

By building a relationship between journalists and the audiences they serve, news organisations are able to encourage more people to invest time in its journalism, gaining trust and becoming more transparent.

But to gain that invaluable attention, news outlets must predominantly be where their audiences are – whether that is TV, online, radio, social media, or in a lot of cases, a combination of all.

“When you ask [a print journalist] to produce video and shoot photographs as well as text, you can see they are excited but also absolutely terrified,” Jane Barrett, Global Editor, News Media Strategy, Reuters said, noting that newsrooms are having to do more with less resources.


“There’s a quick pace of change – which comes with a danger of change fatigue. It’s a challenge for managers who are trying to keep the business running, while keeping motivation high and keeping up with technological changes.” – Jane Barrett


Fernandez explained that he encourages his newsroom to re-purpose as much content as they can, creating what he describes as ‘liquid content’ – journalistic material that can flow between platforms, saving time and stress in the newsroom.

“For example, you take text from a column and voice it for radio, then record it with the camera for online,” he said, nothing that this will mean more audiences will see the news.

“You use the same body multiple times – the workload on each journalist is more manageable that way.”

Fernandez is also an advocate of (literally) breaking down walls at The Straits Times, encouraging teams to talk to each other, sharing story ideas and techniques – an idea that Reuters is also pursuing.

“We live in a technological world but you can’t put a price on people overhearing each other and speaking to each other,” Barrett said.

“We are developing a cloud-based input hub in our main offices where all the stories come in and we can direct them out physically throughout the room – having that flexibility, and not having to sit at an editing suite, where you can move and work on that story with others, brainstorming and working together, is really critical."

“When I started out, the editor was at the top of the tree, directing the news – it was about managing the newsroom and its output, but now it is about managing people and directing human beings as well as the stories.”

As the role of an editor continues to develop, so are our newsrooms. The advancements in technology, such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, social media and augmented reality give journalists new opportunities to present the news in wider formats reach out to different audiences.

“It is all about increasingly that efficiency in the newsroom,” said Barrett.

“It’s critical for our news and our audience.”


By Caroline Scott


WAN-IFRA External Contributor


2019-06-01 19:50

Author information

The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (, launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

The 71st World News Media Congress, the 26th World Editors Forum and the 3rd Women in News Summit took place from 1 - 3 June 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland.

In this blog, WAN-IFRA provides previews, interviews, summaries of the presentations and other useful information about the Congress.

Participants were also very active on Twitter throughout the event under the hashtag #wnmc19.

© 2020 WAN-IFRA - World Association of News Publishers

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