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Transparency: the key to winning readership trust in today's world

Let's all take a deep breath -- and now let it out slowly -- and admit to ourselves over the past decade we've done a poor job of teaching our readers the difference between news, opinion, and editorial content.

With the proliferation of online news sources and social media sites it's become easier for angry, mixed-up readers to criticize the newspaper without knowing or understanding how hard we work to publish balanced and unbiased news stories.

Because many online sources of so-called news have little or no formal training in journalism, reporting on the days events with bitter biased opinion rather than balanced factual news stories, we are all washed with the same brush.

Yes, today readers believe the lines are blurred between news and opinion; and at times perhaps their perception is more accurate than we'd like to admit.

The solution is to be as transparent as possible in coverage of news, particularly when covering political or sensitive stories.

What's the answer? Be as transparent as possible. If you endorse candidates or issues, explain why. Here's some ideas from the fine folks at www.trustingnews.org that may assist you with your quest for greater transparency:

* Clearly label opinion content

* Explain who writes an editorial (and who doesn’t)

* Explain where opinion content comes from

* Explain that some journalists are biased on purpose

* If your coverage is nonpartisan, explain and defend that


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