Listening to news skeptics
Project in Wyoming seeks to understand why people are distrustful of the news
The Society of Professional Journalists and the SPJ Foundation want to get a deep understanding of the reasons so many people distrust news organizations and their reporting. Journalism plays an important role in a democracy, so its concerning when citizens dont trust the medias news coverage, particularly reporting that holds elected officials accountable for actions that can impact the public.
SPJ spent the first half of 2019 listening to news consumers explain why they are skeptical about what they read, hear or see in the news media. Rod Hicks, SPJs Journalist on Call, led the project, which also included guidance on how to distinguish between news and other types of information and interactions with journalists.
The project was conducted in Casper, Wyoming, with residents from all walks of life who were asked to attend five discussions and presentations. Wyoming was chosen because it has a slightly higher share of residents who distrust the news media, according to Gallup. The project hoped to leave participants with a better understanding of how journalists do their jobs and better equipped to judge the credibility of news reports. It also hoped to gain insights from the discussions that could be useful in developing strategies for rebuilding trust.
Rod Hicks is SPJs Journalist on Call, a position created to address the issue of dwindling trust in the news media. The Casper Project is consistent with the mission of the position to help journalists understand why the public doesnt trust them and what they can do to re-earn more trust. Rod previously worked as an editor at the Associated Press and several newspapers, including the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He holds a masters degree in newspaper management from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a bachelors degree in mass communication from the University of Alabama.
Rebecca Travers was born and raised in Wyoming and currently lives in Casper, where she is an active member of the community and a familiar face to many. Her deep knowledge of the area and its residents makes her a valuable resource for The Casper Project. Just as important is her previous experience as an administrative assistant and her interest in addressing social issues. She is assisting with the project while enrolled as a full-time student at Casper College.
About the Society of Professional Journalists
SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member today.
About the SPJ Foundation
The SPJ Foundation is a public foundation dedicated to ensuring that those who carry on the tradition of a free press are prepared for the challenge. The SPJ Foundation supports educational and professional needs of journalists and journalism students. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Give to the SPJ Foundation.
Dates of sessions
– February 12, 2019
– March 15, 2019
(Makeup day for those who missed the Feb. 12 session)
– March 19, 2019
– May 7, 2019
– June 4, 2019
– July 16, 2019
Qualifications to participate in the project
– You must live in the Casper, Wyoming, area to join the group.
– You must have some concerns about the trustworthiness of the local or national news media.
– You must be at least 18 years old.
– You are strongly urged to commit to attending all five 2-hour sessions. If you missed Session 1, you should attend a makeup session on March 15.
How to apply to participate
– Fill out the application form and you will be contacted if selected to participate.
– Selected participants will receive up to $100 ($20 per session) for their participation.
Email us here with your questions or comments about the project.