By Anna Valdez
Web Content Contributor
Members of KTSW’s Web Content staff attended the Texas Association of Broadcasters’ (TAB) Southwest Broadcast Newsroom Workshop on Nov. 10 in Houston, Texas.
Students had the opportunity to sit in on a number of panels hosted by broadcast newsroom trainers and professionals from around the country. Author and journalism trainer, Deborah Potter presented “Restoring Public Trust in Journalism,” a session that offered useful tips for current and aspiring news writers to incorporate in their practice.
The panel focused on credibility in the age of Trump. Potter delved into six sub-topics, including how to be transparent, how to respond to counter complaints, the importance of accessibility and attentiveness, staying accountable and being a reporter with values.
According to Potter, a reporter should always strive to be transparent. For stories, this means showing where sources were found, explaining your coverage, sharing your reasoning and defining your terms. Following these four rules ensures that a writer’s work is credible and that the audience is receiving accurate information from a reliable news source.
In the age of social media, users have the ability to respond to news articles and reporters at the tap of a button. Unfortunately, not all online interactions are civil and can often explode into a frenzy of cyber attacks. If online comments get really negative, it can tarnish the station’s image as well as how people perceive a story. So how does Potter recommend handling these kind of negative online commentators? The first step to responding to a nasty comment online is to thank the user by name (i.e. thanking them for tuning into the network). Next, you offer an explanation to the issue, making sure the response is written in a positive and professional manner. Lastly, you let the user know that you appreciate them for being a devoted audience member. All of this ensures that the news station is paying careful attention to the people it serves and keeping in mind that professionalism and patience is key to keeping an audience.
Potter also discussed the importance of accessibility. It is important that the audience has access to news reporter biographies and multiple points of contact, all of which should be easily attainable. According to Potter, in order for there to be accountability, a station and its reporters have to be accessible and available in order for audience members to contact them with questions, comments or concerns.
Listening to the audience is another essential part of being a reporter. After all, it is imperative that the audience is included in some way. One method that Potter suggested as a way to connect to the audience is by posting ‘CQ’ forms that users can access and fill out. A ‘CQ’ form is essentially an online form, such as a Google Doc, that allows the audience to answer a series of questions or offer their input pertaining to the stories a station puts out. This helps the newsroom decide what topics are important to the audience so that reporters can develop stories that people are curious about.
Accountability is imperative in the newsroom. Potter noted that news stations should have a corrections policy that is enforced, shared and followed. If a reporter makes a mistake, it is important that they address it and fix it. If it is a mistake that causes backlash, Potter suggests owning up to the mistake and correcting it. Stations should also make it easy for people to see where mistakes were made, how they were fixed and offer an easy option for people to weigh in on the corrections.
Lastly, Potter talked about having value as a reporter and an individual. A reporter’s principles and values are reflected in their stories and have a great impact on the community at large. As practicing broadcast news writers, journalists and media professionals, ethics are the forefront of the mass communication field. Without it, the news media risks losing the audience’s trust, a factor that is currently being tested in today’s political climate and one that must be constantly restored and protected.
For more information about TAB, visit their website at http://www.tab.org. Follow Deborah Potter on Twitter (@dpotternews).
Featured screenshot via Texas Association of Broadcasters.