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Jeff Pieters: How we hope to hold (or regain) your trust

Yes, journalists are far from perfect, but ethics are a daily consideration in the newsroom. We need to share that with you.

Jeff Pieters column sig
We are part of The Trust Project.

Trust.

It is one of those fundamental things that is sometimes taken for granted, but it is easy to lose — and exceedingly hard to regain, once it's been lost.

Like many public institutions in the U.S. today, the mainstream media — including us here at the Post Bulletin — suffer from a credibility deficit that borders on (or achieves, depending on your outlook) a loss of trust.

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I'd be among the first to admit that we're far from perfect. I'd even acknowledge that unconscious biases unfortunately find their way into our reporting at times. But I'd also like to point out that many journalists I've worked with over the course of my career are some of the most ethical, conscientious people I've known. Many of us bend over backwards to make sure our stories are complete, that our sources are fairly represented, and that a fair sampling of competing views are heard.

The trouble is, much of that sweaty work takes place in our newsroom, which — like your workplace, I'd imagine — isn't readily open to outside eyes. If only you could see more of what goes into our reporting, you might find your wounded faith restored.

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Such thinking is why the Post Bulletin has joined The Trust Project , an initiative to make our operations more transparent, and the purposes of our journalism more clearly known and understood.

You might have read about The Trust Project when we joined it three weeks ago . Here, I wanted to tell you about a few things that we've done since joining, and some things that we already were doing before we joined. This isn't a complete list! But I do hope it gives you some idea of the efforts that are happening here.

  • We've posted a page on our website displaying our mission statement, coverage priorities, ethics policies, and more. You can find that page at https://www.postbulletin.com/policies-and-standards.
  • For some projects, we're documenting our reporting methods and the process of discovery that led us to the story. In many cases, we'll share that background information as an ancillary report to the story itself.
  • A related effort by Erich Fisher, one of our digital content producers, is that he interviews other journalists about themselves and their work for an occasional podcast, Behind the Headline . You can find it on our site.
  • We'll revive an old Post Bulletin tradition and assemble a panel of readers to learn about us, and to advise us with their insights as members of the community. I know, I know — I said I would be forming a Readers Advisory Panel around the first of the year. I have applications from some of you, and I'll take a few more before I make selections in the next couple of weeks.

This list could go on — I had a few more things to say, but I've run up against my word-count limit. Not to worry, because the last thing I would have added on my list is this: that from now on, I'll be sharing insights from the newsroom more regularly in this column. In the meantime, if you have questions, comments, plaudits or brickbats, you can find me at the number and email address below.
And, as always, thanks for reading and supporting your Rochester Post Bulletin.

Jeff Pieters is editor of the Post Bulletin. Reach Jeff at 507-285-7748 or email jpieters@postbulletin.com.

Opinion by Jeff Pieters
Jeff Pieters is editor of the Post Bulletin. He joined the staff as a reporter in 2001, and has been editor since 2019. Readers can reach Jeff at 507-285-7748 or jpieters@postbulletin.com.
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