Eight ideas that demonstrate designing for trust in news (Demos, presos)

On March 18-19, the Society for News Design joined forces with the Trust Project to answer the question, “How might we help the people who consume our journalism gain more trust in the news?” This was the first in a new series of events, dubbed SNDExp, created to help partner organizations go an inch-wide and a mile deep on a narrowly defined problem or product.

In less than 48 hours, a team of 32 designers, developers and senior strategists from media companies in the United States and Europe used design thinking methodologies to prototype eight ideas that help strengthen signals of trust between users and news organizations.


Prior to the event, the Trust Project conducted interviews with news consumers of various backgrounds from all over the country. Feedback from each consumer was presented to at-event teams, which led to prototypes that directly responded to real human needs. A feedback loop was created at the event by having two of the aforementioned news consumers on hand for testing before the final sprint.

Without further ado, explore the ideas designed to help strengthen trust between journalist and reader:

Team Hell´s Kitchen:

Tom Harrigan, Alley Interactive; Daniel Newman, NPR; Martin Reynolds, Maynard Institute; Jane Elizabeth, API

Name of project: InTrust

“Our project is a reflection of the belief that the way we’ve been doing journalism hasn’t worked for many people we have purported to serve. Through our remodeling kit, we proposing reshaping news organization to not see themselves merely as peddlers of news, but as partners. This partnership means news organizations commit to serving as facilitators, instigators and conveners on behalf of our community.They must commit to being inclusive in all aspects of the mission and to be trustworthy in engaging with the community face-to-face and in the digital space. This is done through a remodeling of the organization using the Fault Lines framework as a guiding principle to create inclusive coverage, collaboration and interaction strategies that put the news organization and the community shoulder-to-shoulder. The organization also commits to using our newly developed digital tools that enable people to engage, source and contextualize the stories they see so they feel more confident in the reporting and in the journalists who created it.”

Presentation | Prototype

Team Lower East Side:

Marcus Moretti, MIC; Jason Chiu, The Globe and Mail; Joy Mayer, Mayer Media Strategies; Ernie Mourelo, Hearst Television

Name of project: Trustify

“Trustify gives you only news that meet our standards, and yours. Tell us what you trust, and we’ll create your feed.”

Presentation | Prototype

Team Times Square:

Aditi Bhandari, Knight Lab; Jim Sergent, USA Today; Jeff Jarvis, CUNY

“We are updating the footnote, enabling journalists to show their work by linking — with icons and previews — to source bios, source documents, data, interviews, etc.”

Presentation and prototype

Team Upper East Side:

Claire O’Neill, NPR; Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, The Washington Post; Ham Boardman, The New York Times; Rudy Galfi, Google

“In an era of declining trust in journalism, a two-step process that allows the industry to strongly message to readers our commitment to accuracy, fairness and accountability at the individual article level and will help search engines and social networks surface the best content.

Step One: The Trust Project Badge

The Trust Project has a minimum price of entry: The creation or expansion of individual Digital Publishing Guidelines that clearly explain the publisher’s policies regarding several key trust areas. Publishers who create the guidelines may use the Trust Project badge on all of its individual articles. Clicking on the logo takes readers to a Creative Commons-like policy page that lists all the publisher’s Digital Publishing Guidelines that the program represents.

Step Two: Article Badges

Once publishers have earned the Trust Project Badge they can expand the program by badging individual articles to allow greater understanding of how they were created.”


Team Upper West Side:

Greg MacGregor, The Globe and Mail; Jessica Yu, The Wall Street Journal; Spencer Walsh, CBC News; Gloria Medina, independent journalist

“We created tools that surface the journalistic process and broaden the view of the story. With this, we try to fulfill Wendy’s concerns about trust and have a more active sharing with the community.

The created widgets that will show the transparency with what the story was reported. The content will be focus on local news with information related to the community needs. The reader will be able to see the reporter’s bio and other stories of the reporter. Within the story we designed widgets to give the reader the option of read the list of sources that were used to write the story, to give feedback and take action if they believe it has to be done. Also, the reader will give a vote up and down if they like the story. At the end, there will be a link to ethics policy.”


Team West Village:

Justin Myers, Associated Press; Derrick Schultz, The New York Times; Tim Grieve, McClatchy; Marie Gilot, CUNY

“Kalah is a story framework that explores the multiple perspectives of a story. Adding to the traditional reporter’s story, it uses multimedia to allow each source to tell their story, unedited. This system lets readers explore sources in a more empathetic way, allow for multiple entry points to a story. It builds trust by acknowledging that every story has multiple views, and readers are smart enough to engage with each in a meaningful way.

Kalah’s current iteration is built in the form of a Snapchat story. Swappable screens give you an overview of the multiple viewpoints, each with an ability to drill down further into the individual perspective. A synthesized version—more like the traditional “final” news story—ends the story, with fact-checking and a reporter’s summation.”

Repo | Prototype  | Presentation 

Team SoHo:

Jessica Gilbert, McClatchy; Sara Quinn, SND/Kansas State; Mark Payton, Haymarket Media; Simon Galperin, CUNY

“Creating a worth meter on every article to let the reader see whether other readers thought the read was worthwhile. We ask that users to judge the worth of the article after reading it so that their peers can make better decisions about what’s worth reading. We seek additional judgment from them and mark each brand’s overall worthiness and the worthiness of the topic areas they cover.”

Presentation and prototype

Team Chelsea:

Youyou Zhou, AP; Sam Kirkland, BuzzFeed; Krishna Bharat, consultant; Peter Fray, Tow-Knight fellow  

“We’re prototyping an operational trust protocol at an article and organizational level to promote transparency. With one tap, the user can access a page of information (list of trust indicators) about the process behind the story and the policies of the news provider.”

Presentation | Prototype | Open Trust Protocol


Special thanks to the partners and volunteers who made this event possible:

  • Reeta Laique, Graduate Student, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
  • Greicy Mella, Senior Art Director, National Enquirer
  • Marie Gilot, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t extend our hearty thanks to the SND and Trust Project funders who supported this effort:

  • The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
  • Google News
  • Craigconnects.org
  • Markkula Family Foundation
  • CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

About Kyle Ellis

is Director of Strategic Programs for SND, and a consultant for American City Business Journals.

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