Jessica Coates: How do we gain your trust?
It’s difficult to explain why reporters do what we do.
Many people think we’re drawn to the job because we want to convince people of something.
Or because we want to knock down our enemies from behind a computer screen.
Although I can’t speak for every reporter in the world, none of those things ever attracted me. Or, I can assure you, anyone in our newsroom.
A talk on Thursday’s “Charlotte Talks” radio program on WFAE — focused on how the obsession with “fake news” is leaking into the public’s trust of local reporting — got my wheels turning about how we, as Salisbury Post reporters, can assure you that we’re real.
We really care about the facts — all of the facts, from every side of a situation. If we didn’t accurately represent them in a story, it’s probably because we didn’t have all the information in time for our deadline.
And, if we didn’t have all of them in time for our deadline, there’s always the next day. We run corrections, clarifications and sometimes entirely new stories to ensure that you, our readers, get all the facts you need to have an informed opinion.
Unfortunately, for both you and us, time and our own human fallibility are always factors when we’re constructing our stories.
But what alternative is there? Robots cannot do what we do.
What makes humans weak is also what makes us strong — we care deeply.
We, as reporters and as people, care deeply about you, about our community and about the future of our city.
We do what we do because we want to make it better.
But have we convinced you of that?
Reader comments on our articles and the articles of many of our counterparts read, “Fake news!”
While we are liable to make mistakes because of incomplete information or our own human fallibility, nothing we put out is ever “fake.”
There is a difference between mistakes and harmful, misleading intentions.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines fake news as “false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke.”
Although we, as reporters and humans, have political opinions, we never write stories with the intention of convincing you that you should have the same ones.
Differences of opinion are valuable and are what make our community vibrant and diverse.
We also never write about our community as a “joke.”
We are actually here to do the exact opposite — our goal is to take your concerns, your life, your thoughts very seriously.
I ask now, openly and honestly — how can we convince you of that?
How can we get you to trust us?
Some suggestions that were made on the “Charlotte Talks” program included giving you more chances to “check our work.” More than we already do, we could post videos of meetings that we cover or documents of papers that we cite.
But if we gave you a chance to check our work, would you do it?
We want to serve you. You want us to serve you.
How can we work together to make that happen?
Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.
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