The Newsroom Transparency Tracker equips the public to assess the transparency of leading national and regional media outlets by surfacing the policies, practices, and people behind the news. A collaboration between PEN America and The Trust Project, the 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 Tracker uses “Trust Indicators,” transparency standards developed by the Trust Project network that provide clarity on a media outlet’s ethics codes and related commitments, how it does its work, and the expertise of its journalists. The Tracker enables the public to see the information published by media outlets for four of The Trust Project’s Indicators – Best Practices, Journalist Expertise, Type of Work, and Diverse Voices – and each of their attributes (please see below for more details).
For each Trust Indicator attribute, the media outlet will have a if they have fully provided the relevant information, a if they have partially provided the relevant information, and a if they have not provided any of the relevant information.
The Tracker focuses on the degree to which media outlets make their commitments and policies public. Internal policies and practices that are not publicly documented are not reflected in the Tracker.
The Trust Indicators are transparency standards that provide clarity on a media outlet’s 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, Trust Indicators are rooted in core journalistic values and based on in-depth research capturing what the public trusts and wants in news. The Trust Project is working with digital platforms, including Google, Facebook, and Bing, to use the Trust Indicators to surface and display journalism with authority and integrity.
The Tracker uses four Trust Indicators: Best Practices, Journalist Expertise, Type of Work, and Diverse Voices. Each indicator has one or more attributes, which are described below. For more detailed information, visit The Trust Project.
Best Practices Indicator: What are the news outlet’s standards and mission? Who funds it? Commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, corrections, and other best practices.
A policy that states a commitment to journalism that is accurate, fair, and complete, and to act with honesty, transparency, and independence, including from conflicts of interest.
Ownership Structure/Funding Disclosure
A clear description of ownership and funding sources (including grants), along with a statement about editorial independence and potential conflicts of interest.
A statement that describes the vision and goals behind a news outlet, whom it aims to serve, and whether it is involved in social impact or advocacy campaigns. The mission statement may also highlight the news outlet’s demographic or local expertise and its target audience.
An explanation of how the organization investigates claims, corroborates information, and verifies content to ensure accuracy.
A clear policy to disclose and correct errors, including providing an easy route for audiences to report errors. This includes a commitment to making corrections quickly and showing them on the relevant article page.
Unnamed Sources Policy
A general policy that explains whether or not the news outlet permits the use of anonymous sources, and if so, describes the decision-making process required when a journalist would like to use anonymous sources in a particular news story.
A list of the top editors and other decision-makers behind the journalism.
The date the news organization was founded.
Newsroom Contact Info
Contact information for members of the public to report corrections, suggest stories, or contact the news outlet for any other reason.
Diverse Voices is considered part of the Best Practices Trust Indicator, and it also stands independently on its own (see below).
Journalist Expertise Indicator: Who made this? Details about the journalist, their expertise, and other published work.
News should be accompanied by a byline – i.e., the name of the journalist(s) who created the story. Some news outlets can meet this Trust Indicator by providing adequate information about who is responsible for the story and standing by its accuracy.
Journalist Bio & Info
News outlets should provide biographical information for each journalist, including: name, location, languages spoken, areas of expertise, biography, contact details, job title/role, and links to previously published work. For the purposes of this Tracker, news outlets receive full marks if their journalist pages include at least four of the aforementioned components.
“Type of Work” Indicator: What am I looking at? Labels to distinguish opinion, analysis, and advertiser (or sponsored) content from news reports.
“Type of Work” Label
News sites should clearly label content other than news as “opinion,” “analysis,” “paid content,” “sponsored content,” or “underwritten or supported content.” News is strictly based on facts either observed firsthand by the reporter or gathered and verified from reliable sources who represent multiple viewpoints on an event or issue. News does not include a journalist’s opinion.
Diverse Voices Indicator: What are the news outlet’s efforts and commitments to including diverse perspectives? Readers notice when certain voices, ethnicities, or political persuasions are missing in news reports.
Diverse Voices Statement
News outlets should state their commitment to including a diversity of voices and perspectives in every aspect of newsgathering and production.
Diverse Staffing Report
News outlets should provide a link to their most recent staff diversity report, using self-report or reports to agencies or associations.
Trust Project News Partner: This outlet is a partner of The Trust Project and is implementing the Trust Indicators. If they have met the minimum requirements, they reference their participation in The Trust Project on their websites, with a link to thetrustproject.org and usually, the Trust Mark logo.
For the first iteration of the Newsroom Transparency Tracker, PEN America and The Trust Project have included a diverse cross-section of traditional national news outlets (print and broadcast), prominent digital news publications, and a sampling of regional news sites across the United States. A number of news outlets affiliated with The Trust Project are included and will continue to be added. To be considered for inclusion on the Tracker, news outlets must be professional organizations that: publish original, regular reporting; hold a public interest or civic mission; and demonstrate a digital presence. News outlets that belong to subsidiaries must be held to the same policies as the parent company.
The Tracker will be updated on a quarterly basis. For news outlets that meet the criteria above and would like to request inclusion on the Newsroom Transparency Tracker, please get in touch using this form. For news outlets that meet the criteria above and are interested in joining The Trust Project, please visit the collaborator page on The Trust Project’s website and submit the form provided.
The Tracker does not provide scores, nor does it rank or rate news outlets. PEN America and The Trust Project designed the Tracker to help news consumers assess the commitment of leading national and regional news outlets to openness and transparency rather than pass judgment on an individual news outlet’s credibility. This approach also allows news consumers to decide which of the Trust Indicators they feel are most important. To further the goal of building public trust in our news industry, the Tracker seeks to spark engagement by news media experts, members of the press, and the public. Our aim is to generate increased interest and conversation on the connections between transparency, community engagement, and trust, as well as to encourage news outlets to strive for greater transparency by publishing their internal policies and practices.
No. The Newsroom Transparency Tracker focuses on openness and transparency rather than passing judgments on news outlets. We believe that news outlets should reveal the policies, practices, and people behind their news stories, enabling the public to make informed decisions about the trustworthiness of the news they are seeing. The Tracker also empowers watchdogs and media professionals to decide whether a news outlet is adhering, in practice, to the policies and commitments to which it has committed publicly.
In October 2017, PEN America published Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth, an in-depth examination of the spread of fraudulent news and its harmful impact on civic life in the United States. The report found that fraudulent news has thrived in part as the result of declining trust in traditional (what some call “mainstream”) news media. The various factors behind this growing distrust—including increasingly sharp ideological divisions, attacks on the press by local and national leaders, and missteps by members of the news media themselves—all contribute to the ability of false information to spread and multiply, with concerning consequences for our democracy. One of the report’s key recommendations to combat the harmful impact of fraudulent news is to enhance newsroom transparency.
The Trust Project, a consortium of news organizations around the world, has been working on the crisis of trust in news and on the rise of misinformation since 2014. It has developed transparency standards known as the Trust Indicators, which are rooted in core journalistic values and based on in-depth research about what the public trusts and wants in news. Most traditional news outlets adhere to an ethos of transparency and accountability and follow detailed ethics codes, but information about how newsrooms operate, the standards to which they hold their journalists, and how the public can engage with the reporters who speak on their behalf is not always readily available. Trust Project news partners show the Trust Indicators on their pages, revealing the standards, practices, and people behind their work.
Today, newsroom transparency is more important than ever; it can help increase trust among skeptical news consumers while empowering audiences to more deeply scrutinize the sources of information they encounter online. PEN America and The Trust Project encourage visitors to this site to engage with the Trust Indicators as they hone in on reliable sources of news and defend themselves against false news and misinformation.
PEN America is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1922, that stands at the intersection of writing and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. Our membership of authors, journalists, editors, publishers, and others from the writing professions joins with readers and allies to work to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to convey information and ideas and to access the views of others. PEN America is led by Suzanne Nossel, a prominent voice on free expression issues, and has offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.
The Trust Project is a global, collaborative consortium 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 nonprofit, nonpartisan Trust Project is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Please fill out our contact form if you:
- have a general question or comment about the Tracker.
- wish to report an update to the content linked on the Tracker.
- wish to request that a news outlet be considered for inclusion on the Tracker.
If you are interested in contacting a news outlet featured on the Tracker, please do so directly using the contact information available via the Tracker.
If you are a news outlet interested in joining the Trust Project, please visit the collaborator page on The Trust Project’s website and submit the form provided.
If you are a member of the press with a media request, please email Suzanne Trimel, media consultant at PEN America, at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Marika Lynch, communications lead for The Trust Project, at email@example.com.