The journalism industry is under intense scrutiny and financial pressure but can overcome these challenges by being more transparent about the way it works, a CNN digital news executive told a Toronto audience Thursday.
Trust in the media was an important theme at the Driving Innovation in Media event, hosted by The Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) at the TMX Broadcast Centre.
“A way to combat this trust issue is to be more open and transparent in media,” said Inga Thordar, executive editor of CNN Digital International.
Thordar told panel moderator Kathy Vey that journalism’s credibility is at stake and building trust should be the focus for everyone in media.
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has documented a decline in public trust in journalism over the last several years. The institute says journalism is suffering from a “crisis of confidence.” The 2018 study, which surveys news consumers around the world, found the majority of respondents believe that publishers and platforms “have the biggest responsibility to fix problems of fake and unreliable news.”
Thordar gave the example of the Jan. 25 arrest by the FBI of Roger Stone, a longtime associate of U.S. President Donald Trump. The arrest was captured on camera before dawn by CNN — timing that raised eyebrows.
The CNN video of the arrest was a result of “old-fashioned journalism,” explained Thordar. But because viewers questioned the means by which the media outlet obtained their lead, CNN published an article explaining how they captured the video. Thordar said it was a good example of how news outlets can build trust with their audiences.
The CJF panel occurred within days of significant journalism-related layoffs in the United States, including about 800 positions at Verizon, which owns Yahoo, AOL, and HuffPost, and another 200 jobs at BuzzFeed.
The panel noted the potential value of serving local news to smaller communities. Aron Pilhofer, the James B. Steele Chair in Journalism Innovation at Temple University in Philadelphia, said that larger, legacy media outlets are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
“We have to start thinking about ways to become relevant at the local levels,” Pilhofer said.