Newsroom Transparency Tracker Empowers the Public in an Age of Distrust

There are over 242 codes of ethics in journalism that vary across various regions of the world. The codes of ethics are created through an interaction of different groups of people such as the public and journalists themselves. Most of the codes of ethics serve as a representation of the economic and political beliefs of the society where the code was written.] Despite the fact that there are a variety of codes of ethics, some of the core elements present in all codes are: remaining objective, providing the truth, and being honest.

This week PEN America and the Trust Project released a first-of-its-kind digital tool that tracks the transparency of over fifty leading national and regional media outlets by surfacing the policies, practices, and people behind the news.

The Newsroom Transparency Tracker encourages media outlets to be accountable to the public and empowers the public to make informed choices about the news they watch, listen to, and read.

The Transparency Tracker will serve as:

  • A media literacy tool that empowers the public to hone in on reliable sources of news and defend themselves from fraudulent news and misinformation
  • An accountability tool that encourages news outlets to be more responsive to the interests of the public
  • An educational and research tool that helps teachers, librarians, media industry professionals, and academics assess, and teach the standards and practices behind, news reporting
Susanne Nossel

“In an age when the spread of fraudulent news threatens the fabric of our democracy, it is vital to equip news consumers with the skills that are needed to vet and value the information they receive,” said Suzanne Nossel, Chief Executive Officer of PEN America. “By pressing newsrooms to share more information about how the news is gathered, reported, and edited, we hope the Tracker will help foster trust where it is warranted in reputable newsrooms and begin to inoculate the public against the threat of misleading and false information.”

The Transparency Tracker uses four of the Trust Project’s “Trust Indicators” to highlight the information that each featured media outlet publicly reveals about its ethics codes and related commitments, how it does its work, and the expertise of its journalists. Developed collaboratively by over 100 senior news executives within the Trust Project network, the Trust Indicators are transparency standards rooted in core journalistic values and based on in-depth research capturing what the public values and trusts in news.

“Journalists have ethical values and principles that, all too often, they forget to share with the public, but bold transparency is key to regaining a trustworthy press,” said Sally Lehrman, award-winning journalist and CEO of the Trust Project. “Our Trust Indicators are designed to pull back the curtain on who and what is behind real journalism, so we all can make more informed choices about the news we consume.”

PEN America’s commitment to newsroom transparency is also rooted in research, which has included reports on the harmful impact of fraudulent news on free expression and civic life in the United States. In October 2017, PEN America published the report Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth, which found that the spread of fraudulent news has been magnified by declining trust in traditional (“mainstream”) news media. One of the report’s key recommendations for news outlets was to be more transparent, particularly regarding the ethics that underpin reporting and editing, fact-checking, corrections, and distinguishing news from commentary and opinion.

The Trust Project is the first organization to address mistrust in the news by developing global transparency standards, giving the public access to tools for combating misinformation. The Tracker expands awareness of and access to the consortium’s Trust Indicators, which an estimated 327 million people see across over 125 news partner websites. Dozens of additional news sites are in the process of adopting and implementing the Trust Indicators.


Who the partners are:

PEN America is a nonprofit organization that stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Founded in 1922, PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 centers worldwide that make up the PEN International network and works to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.

The Trust Project is a global, collaborative network of news organizations building Trust Indicators and working with technology platforms to affirm and amplify journalism’s commitment to transparency, accuracy, inclusion, and fairness so that the public can make informed news choices. Led by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman, the Trust Project is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lehrman founded the nonprofit, nonpartisan Trust Project in 2014 as a response to the crisis of trust in news and the increasing confusion over the distinctions between journalism and information that may be advertising, promotion, or actual propaganda.

PEN America and the Trust Project are grateful to Craig Newmark Philanthropies for making the Newsroom Transparency Tracker possible.

This post is courtesy of PEN America, the Trust Project, and Wikipedia.


Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poemsI Am Not a Silent Poet
* Remembering Mom, HerStry
* Three poems, Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
“Over His Morning Coffee,” Front Porch Review

A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton