Posted in Industry Insights

A conversation about trust in journalism

, by Patrick Maks

Speaking at a Society of Professional Journalists forum in Casper, Wyoming, Deputy Managing Editor for U.S. News Noreen Gillespie addressed trust in the media and AP’s commitment to fact-based journalism.

Gillespie called attention to AP’s unrivaled U.S. footprint and explained how having journalists on the ground in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. informs the global news report.

“We want to make sure we’re pulling reporting and observations from people who live in the communities we’re writing about,” Gillespie said. “And that means we have people all over the country going to church, going to school and living in the places that we want to pull those observations from.”

That footprint is underscored by AP’s national politics team, which boasts reporters in every U.S. region and in key states, such as California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire in addition to a team based in Washington.

“Our newsrooms need to reflect people of different backgrounds and different experiences whether that be race, income, or even parts of the country where they’ve lived in,” said Gillespie. “You don’t arrive at stories of how textured America is and how different groups interact with each other and what an individual experience is unless you have those voices in your newsroom.”

Last week’s event, which capped a six-month media trust project in Casper, gave the public a chance to ask questions of representatives from the AP and other news organizations.

Gillespie discussed AP’s News Values and Principles, emphasizing the need for news organizations to be transparent about their reporting processes:

The hallmark of an organization that’s committed to being transparent and committed to accurate reporting has to be able to stand up and say when they’ve gotten it wrong – and none of us sitting up here are prefect, but we do go through a lot of processes, whether it’s multiple layers of editing on a story, whether it’s thinking very deliberately about the type of language we’re using and hearing feedback from both people in the newsrooms we work with and people who are consuming the news to inform those decisions.
In this image taken from video, AP Deputy Managing Editor for U.S. News Noreen Gillespie speaks to members of the public at the Society of Professional Journalists’ “Trust in Media” event in Casper, Wyoming, July 16, 2019. (AP Photo)

She also detailed how AP evaluates and verifies images and video for accuracy before distribution:

We have software that can take a look and see whether or not something has been manipulated, whether something has been added to it or something has been changed. The other thing that we look for is, are there similar images that have circulated in previous news stories that might be a little too similar to what we’re seeing in this event right now? We have a team of experts and sometimes we call in external experts if we’re not sure about what a certain image means or if it’s been used before. And when in doubt, we don’t use it.

Asked about local and state news coverage, Gillespie noted an AP collaboration with California newspapers reviewing the deadly Camp Fire in Paradise, California. The reporting examined California’s at-risk towns, housing stock, how prepared communities are for evacuating residents and preventing deadly traffic jams, and more.

She cited such cooperation as key to the future of journalism.

The trend toward collaboration that we’ve seen in the industry is something that gives me hope. AP was founded years and years ago on the idea that, if we worked together, we’d be stronger as an industry than we did alone and countless examples – whether it’s working together to report or creating a news exchange where different outlets share the news they have for different audiences – it’s happening more and more across the country.

Gillespie was joined by Neal Lipschutz, deputy editor in chief for The Wall Street Journal; Lori Montgomery, deputy national editor at The Washington Post; and Hayes Brown, a world news editor and senior reporter for BuzzFeed News. 

Watch a replay of the discussion: