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The High Stakes of Building Trust in Local News

A significant political story is breaking in a community. A reporter gathers the facts, conducts interviews, seeks comment from the parties involved and goes back over her work, checking every facet of the story for accuracy. She has emails and proof on video. Her meticulous reporting ensures that elected officials in her community are held to account for their claims and actions, but what happens when, despite her Holmesian attention to detail, the public doesn’t believe the story? More broadly, what happens when news, namely local news, doesn’t align with the preexisting beliefs of readers? And what role does social media play?

Enter Online News

Online local news outlets are well-poised to fill the void, but in many respects, we’re starting from behind. Digital-first outlets get lower marks on trust than print outlets. According to the Poynter survey, 47% of Americans trust online news versus 73% who trust their local newspapers. Why is this?

What Can Be Done

News organizations, particularly local news outlets, need to do a better job of educating the public about what objective journalism entails. The public should have a better understanding of how reporting is done and what editorial standards are in place. At TAPinto we’ve employed a transparent and iterative process to ensure all of our sites are putting out objective, well-reported journalism. When we have fallen short — every news organization has — we have been clear about acknowledging the gaps and quickly addressed them. We must earn the trust of the public, not expect it.

Founder and CEO of, a network of 85+ franchised online local news sites in NJ, NY, FL and TX. We’re making local news work.

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