Now in the News: What Is The Journalism Trust Initiative?

October 19, 2022

What Is The Journalism Trust Initiative?

Misinformation and opacity are growing problems in the media industry. Quality media outlets are struggling to stand out from others and get credit for their good work.

The Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) strives to change that. By creating a set of standards to evaluate a media outlet’s transparency, trustworthiness and commitment to journalism ethics, JTI’s certification program provides a tool to help quality media outlets stand out from less trustworthy websites through third-party assurance.

Here’s a brief overview of JTI’s program, the benefits for media outlets and the industry, and how journalists can get started.

WHAT is the Journalism Trust Initiative The Journalism Trust Initiative is a program launched by Reporters Without Borders to give trusted media outlets a way to demonstrate their commitment to creating quality, ethical work and to help them stand out in the digital media landscape. The program includes certification against the JTI Standard — a set of transparency standards developed to measure media outlets’ production of trustworthy news and information. AAM recently achieved accreditation from the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB)* to become the first U.S. certifier for JTI. AAM sought accreditation because JTI aligns with AAM’s mission of helping buyers buy and sellers sell through trust and assurance.

HOW JTI certification works Media outlets participate in a three-step process to determine their compliance with the JTI Standard. The program includes a self-assessment, public disclosure of the assessment in the form of a Transparency Report, and third-party verification of the report by an accredited auditor.

WHEN certification is achieved Media outlets must complete all three steps of the process — including the third-party audit — to achieve certification. Once certification is achieved, the media outlet receives the JTI Mark — a visual symbol that can be displayed to let advertisers and others know about compliance. The certification remains valid for two years.

WHO benefits from the program Any news media outlet (print, digital, or broadcast) that wants to self-assess their editorial processes and increase their transparency will benefit from participating. Advertisers can partner with certified media outlets with the confidence that they are investing in media that adhere to industry standards as verified by a third party. The public also benefits from an improved news ecosystem.

WHY media outlets should participate JTI’s certification process helps media outlets tell their quality story and stand out in a crowded media ecosystem. Media outlets can use the certification as a competitive advantage to help distinguish themselves as being committed to quality and ethics and upholding industry standards for transparency.

How Midterm Political Ad Spending Could Hit A Record $9 Billion

The surge of political ad dollars flowing to media has caused Kantar/CMAG to raise its spending estimate to $9 billion, which would be a new record for political dollars in a midterm election with respect to local broadcast TV, local cable TV/satellite, local OTT (over-the-top), Facebook, Google and radio. The new estimate tallies $4.6 billion for local broadcast TV, $1.4 billion for OTT, $1.5 billion for local cable TV/satellite, $1.2 billion for Facebook and Google and $300 million for local radio.

What’s causing this record spending? Close competition in the Senate and House. We’re 50/50 in the Senate, and the Democrats have a narrow nine-seat lead in the House. Money for ads can’t be spent unless there’s fundraising to support it, and both parties have maximized their prowess in recent years, adding digital components to their efforts. That’s opened the door for anyone that wants to donate at any level, and there are a lot of people that want to contribute based on what we’re seeing this year.

The two parties are airing ads with distinct subjects. Most Democratic ads highlight the dangers of the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court, cautioning what that could ultimately mean to reproductive rights if Republicans take

Congress. For Republicans, ads focus on economic issues, blaming Democratic spending for the spike in inflation. Democrats also talk about inflation, but that’s being shaped by ads accusing corporations of price gouging and suggesting they are holding them accountable. There are also references to the recent legislation Democrats passed allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription prices, illustrating another way they are working to lower inflation.

“Every four years we shoot ourselves in the foot”: Should news outlets still endorse political candidates?

Interviewing 64 U.S. political journalists, we found that many of them have come to view their outlets’ political endorsements as a liability.

Endorsements for politicians have a long history in U.S. newspapers, which until the 20th century were usually explicitly aligned with one political party or faction. Traditionally, endorsements have fallen under the purview of a newspaper’s owner or its editorial board. Journalists may know the decision of which candidate to endorse is distinct from the newsroom’s reporting, but many readers don’t separate the two.

As we recently found, in a study published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, many journalists themselves have come to see editorial endorsements as a liability. In 2020, we interviewed 64 political journalists with affiliations ranging from digital-only news outlets to national magazines to local and national newspapers. Most of the journalists we interviewed didn’t question their newsrooms’ ability to uphold the metaphorical wall between the editorial and reporting sides, with one reporter referring to it as “a pretty strict firewall.”

However, they also felt the need to explain to readers the divide between an endorsement from a newspaper’s editorial board and the newspaper’s other journalists. Some reporters told us that sources had asked them why they’d endorsed the other candidate. The journalists would find themselves clarifying that they hadn’t endorsed anyone — their editorial board had. As one journalist put it: “Nobody knows the distinction between the editorial board and the reporters, and that’s our fault for not telling them. Every four years we shoot ourselves in the foot.” Another noted: “Political parties like to bash some news organizations, leading to viewers believing a news organization is biased.” Endorsements, he added, “can exacerbate those preconceived notions.”

Maribel Perez Wadsworth Elected Chair of the Board of the News/Media Alliance

The News/Media Alliance has elected Maribel Perez Wadsworth, President of Gannett Media, as its Chair of the Board of Directors for the 2022-2024 term. Perez Wadsworth, who previously served as Vice Chair, succeeds Toni Bush, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Government Affairs at News Corp.

Perez Wadsworth and the Board will continue to navigate the challenging media landscape and intensely advocate on behalf of the industry, implementing new strategies and initiatives to help the news and magazine media industries continue to thrive.

“Maribel is an invaluable member of the Alliance Board and we are excited for her to help lead the Alliance’s strategy as Chair,” said Alliance President and CEO David Chavern. “The media landscape continues to evolve, but what hasn’t changed is the importance of quality journalism for keeping the public informed. Our mission – to ensure the sustainability of the industry through growing subscribers and getting a better deal from the tech platforms for use of our content – is more important than ever and I look forward to continued collaboration with Maribel to tell our story.” Perez Wadsworth’s more than 25 years of business and industry expertise includes running Gannett’s news division overseeing more than 4,000 journalists across more than 230 local news organizations and the flagship publication USA TODAY, to which she was named publisher in 2018. In 2015, she was named Gannett’s first Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer and has helped architect Gannett’s digital subscription strategy. She is also a recognized leader in the development of women and minority leaders in the newsroom.

“It is an honor to serve as Chair of the News/Media Alliance,” Perez Wadsworth stated. “I am a firm believer in the critical and enormously beneficial role journalism serves in a healthy and democratic society. As we see the dangers of mis- and disinformation and how they have spread on digital platforms, it underscores even more the need for credible, trusted news sources in our country, especially in our local communities. The Alliance is helping ensure a sustainable future for journalism through the incredible advocacy work, research and programs for publishers, and I am excited to help continue their critical work on behalf of the news media industry as Chair.”