Student journalists empowered with a talk on trust and credibility

By Brittany Anderson

SAN MARCOS, Texas — Texas State University kicked off its annual Mass Comm Week on Oct. 14 with a journalism session on trust and credibility.

Emmy-award winning journalist Lynn Walsh came to campus to speak on the importance of journalists establishing trust and credibility and different tools they can use to accomplish this.

Walsh is part of Trusting News, an online ethics resource established in 2016 who work with newsrooms and journalists on how they can implement trust-building strategies with their audience.       

“Something I’ve learned is that ‘trust’ is a very complicated word,” Walsh said. “When we think about trust, it’s not just something that happens overnight. You build a relationship with it over time.”

During her talk Walsh shared statistics taken from various polls, including one from the Pew Research Center that found 50% of Americans say made up news and information is a very big problem— a bigger problem than violent crime, climate change, racism, illegal immigration, terrorism and sexism.

“Most people don’t necessarily think that journalists are responsible for made-up news and information, but they do say it’s up to us to try and fix it,” Walsh said. “They think journalists are more responsible than the government and technology companies. Whether we want to get involved or not, the public wants us to and expects us to.”

Walsh acknowledges that amongst all the fact-checking, journalists need to remember that these stories come from real people.

“Trust isn’t something that’s just based in fact,” Walsh said. “It involves both head and heart. As journalists, we’re told to gather and report facts. We’re trying to relate to people using words and data. Sometimes we don’t realize that we also need to have a little bit of heart. We need to be relatable.”

Another key element to establishing trust is through seeking out ample, diverse sources. A survey from the Pew Research Center found that only 21% of U.S. adults have spoken with or been interviewed by a local journalist.

“We say we cover our community, but we’ve only talked to 21% of our community,” Walsh said. “By looking at the data, the less white you are, the younger you are, the less educated you are and the less money you make, you are the least likely to have talked to a journalist. We need to be better at talking to more of our audience, and not just the same portion of it.”

Walsh’s talk inspired many budding writers to do their part in telling stories in a way that both informs and inspires.

“It’s really important to understand who you’re writing to,” student Nichole Black said. “After listening to the lecture, I now realize that not only do you need to deliver the most factual story you can to your audience, but also present yourself as a credible source and develop a lasting relationship with that audience.”

Mass Comm Week continues until Oct. 18 with valuable panels covering networking, resume editing, salary negotiation and more.

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