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The Day delves into trust work: The more you know us, the more you trust us

Have you ever had trouble distinguishing between a news article and an opinion column in The Day? Do you wonder how we decide which stories to cover, or which subjects to photograph? Maybe you aren't sure whether our news staff approaches important topics with the appropriate objectivity.

As journalists who insist on transparency in government and other matters of public interest, we're ready to shine the light on our own operation. We figure the more you know about how we operate, the more you can trust our content.  

In the coming months, we're going to be telling you a lot about how The Day newsroom works, using this column, social media and "The Storyline" podcast. We hope it will be a two-way conversation in which you feel free to ask questions and make suggestions. We've been updating our staff profiles so that you know more about the people covering your communities.

The Day has partnered with a national organization called Trusting News for the past three years, and recently formed a Trust Committee within the newsroom. Trusting News is a project of the American Press Institute and the Missouri School of Journalism's Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute that partners with 30 newsrooms around the country to work on transparency and trust-building strategies.

The Day's multimedia director Peter Huoppi, who sought out the partnership with Trusting News, is chairing our Trust Committee. The committee's goals are to help our audience better understand who we are, what we do and why; to find ways to be more responsive and accessible to our audience, and to examine our practices to see if there is anything we can change internally to better serve and be better understood by the public.

I asked Huoppi to explain, in an email, why the issue of trust is so important at this moment in time.

"The news media landscape has changed a lot," Huoppi wrote. "When I was growing up, my main choices for news were public radio, a few newspapers and the evening newscasts of the three major TV networks. Now with 24-hour cable news, talk radio and social media, people have access to more choices, and the news you find in those places is often clouded by opinion and bias, both real and perceived. I think people see what's happening at explicitly partisan cable news outlets and assume that the same things happen in their local newsroom. There is a lot happening in our country and in our region right now that can significantly impact the lives of people living here. I think we serve an important role in the community and we need our audience to believe that as well."

The committee is initially looking at the way we label our content, to make sure it's clear to readers what constitutes an objectively reported news story and what's an opinion. We're talking about our internal guidelines for selecting which wire stories to publish, and planning to tell you how we make those decisions.

A few of us have been meeting with Lynn Walsh from Trusting News to discuss our evolving trust and engagement work. She provided recommendations when we revised our police coverage policy and, with a background in investigative journalism, serves as an excellent sounding board for discussions on ethics and policy.

Walsh said via Zoom this week that it's hard to measure trust, or her organization's impact, but newsrooms across the country are having conversations.

We're inviting you to be part of our conversation by chatting with us online — details to be announced soon — emailing us or giving us a call. And when you see one of our reporters in your community, introduce yourself and tell them what they can do to earn your trust.

Karen Florin is The Day's engagement editor. She can be reached at k.florin@theday.com or (860) 701-4217.

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