An Easy Solution for Trusting Your News Sources

August 2018

Image: iStock

Whether you consume the bulk of your news by reading, watching or listening, it’s crucial to know how to identify the fake from the fully vetted. It’s not reasonable to expect consumers to fact check every news item or compare multiple sources producing content on the same topic for consistency. The solution for news consumers is to turn their attention to reliable, unbiased sources—the work produced by journalists. 

Held to a higher standard

Journalists are unique in that they are a group of professional writers and photographers that universally adhere to ethical codes of conduct. The Society of Professional Journalists follows these four principles as the foundation of ethical journalism for all people in all media:

  1. Seek truth and report it.
  2. Minimize harm.
  3. Act independently.
  4. Be accountable and transparent. 

If these high standards were not enough, the best writers can launch from those virtues and craft a narrative that captures your attention and imagination in compelling ways. Many of the writers at Twirling Tiger Media are award-winning journalists. Due to their unique training and standards, they know how to ask the right questions—and enough of them—to create the kind of content worth reading. Today’s savvy, self-educating B2B and B2C consumers no longer want content that “advertises” products and services. They want an honest, authentic narrative that creates a connection, trust and empathy. And, multiple content types that will drive further action, moving them along the buyer’s journey with ease.

My news obsession

I have been a forever-fan of all-things-news, gobbling up information produced by journalists since my youth. Choosing a career as a visual communicator in publishing has exposed me to skillful writers and an understanding of their toil and triumphs. I was giddy-happy when I was recently invited to attend one of my daughter’s graduate classes at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with two Politico reporters leading the discussion: Dan Diamond and Jennifer Haberkorn. Diamond, along with his partner Rachana Pradhan, recently produced hard-hitting reporting that likely impacted the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. Haberkorn was formerly the senior healthcare reporter for Politico Pro. She’s covered healthcare policy and politics since the Affordable Care Act’s conception in 2009. She recently took a position as a congressional reporter for the Los Angeles Times’ Washington bureau. 

State your intention

Diamond and Haberkorn offered the class an overview of how reporters cover (and uncover) the news on Capitol Hill. They explained the meanings and implications of speaking to a reporter “on the record,” “off the record,” “on background,” and “deep background.” I recommend reading The New York Times article “What Does ‘Off the Record’ Really Mean?” to understand how these journalistic practices work. And to my surprise, all of this high-impact exchange of information between a reporter and sources is agreed to verbally! (A lobbyist in the classroom commented, “When you start to pull out written agreements, nobody wants to talk.”) In true reporter fashion, Diamond attempted to tease out information from my daughter, an HHS intern in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, known as ASPE, regarding a story he had recently authored on that very office, but she held firm with a “no comment.”

Tips on delivering polished news

The reporters stated that all information they gain from sources is carefully weighed against confirming or conflicting information from other seemingly reliable sources before publication. A judgement on the motivation of a source in offering information is a consideration in the decision to publish or hold off until more data has been gathered. The reporters stated that following this process to prepare one news item can sometimes take months of work.

To sidestep a communications department (gatekeepers), and gain access to a high-level source, Haberkorn asks the PR staff at an organization a complex question that only an expert has the capacity to answer. Bingo … she’s soon passed along to the top echelon of newsmakers to respond to her inquiry with solid quotes.

The reporters also suggested not exceeding a word count of 800—the new long-form article for online reading. (I am stopping at 735!)

So read, watch and listen to copious amounts of solid reporting crafted by journalists to stay truly informed.

Thank you for reading this.

Maureen Joyce

Creative Director