Under a Microscope: Why the New York Times is being transparent with how they cover politics.

Author:Tornoe, Rob
Position:Digital publishing
 
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If you took an informal poll of the colleagues you work alongside in your newsroom, I'd bet the overwhelming perception they have is that readers seem to be losing trust in journalism as a whole.

While there is an undeniable partisan divide that drives down trust in news organizations, 71 percent of Americans typically start reading a national news story expecting it will be accurate, according to a recent Pew survey. Trust in news organizations as a whole far outpaces what readers think of social media, where trust among readers rests in the single digits.

So, where does the lack of trust come in? According to Pew, it's over the fact that readers tend to feel disconnected from the media, mystified by the reporting process and not particularly connect to their main sources of news. There's also a lack of confidence in the willingness of news organizations to admit when they've made mistakes, which isn't surprising considering corrections often receive far less attention or web traffic than the original stories

Patrick Healy began to understand that dynamic during his time as a political reporter for the New York Times. Dating back to 2005, Healy said he always received the same questions from a number of different voters, which included "Why did you write the story that way?" "How do you decide which candidate to write about?" "Does the Times have a liberal agenda?"

Healy took over as the Times politics editor in 2018 and told his team one of his goals for the newspaper's political coverage was to deepen trust with readers and voters. That's no small task, considering the Times' stature makes it a big target for people on all sides of the political divide.

"I get emails from readers saying they cancelled subscriptions because they think Times political coverage is biased and/ or liberal, favors the horse race far more than issues, got Trump elected and has too many stories about Trump voters or wrote too much about Hillary Clinton's emails in 2016 and not about possible Trump-Russia connections," Healy said.

Instead of combating and reacting to those claims directly, Healy came up with the idea to engage with readers directly on Twitter by discussing the intentions behind the stories themselves, including why certain stories were written, why they were framed a certain way and what exactly goes into the story-creation process.

"Readers want to understand how we cover politics, and at a time of lot of mistrust about motives and bias and...

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