Today’s Thought: Journalists must trust their audiences

“Before the public can learn to trust the powerful, the powerful must learn to trust the public.” – Jeff Jarvis

Too many journalists don’t trust the public — AKA their audience. Many believe that journalists are the arbiters of information and truth. This is why so many journalism companies have been slow to adopt blogs, allow comments on stories, accept user-created content like photos, etc.

That sort of hubris worked when journalism outlets like newspapers had monopolies, but it’s a terrible mindset to have in the era of choice. People have a voice now, and that voice allows them to choose a myriad of other sources for news and information. People overwhelmingly want to apart of the conversation, not just a third-party sitting on the sidelines.

People have left traditional journalism outlets in droves, often because new media outlets provide a conversation and openly ask for user feedback. In fact, many blogs and other new media companies were founded by non-journalists who felt left out of the conversation by traditional media companies.

Embracing users is a great way for journalism companies to connect with users. Users that feel a connection are more likely to come back to a site and spend more time on it. Many news organizations have embraced their users, and those are the companies best positioned to not only survive but also thrive in 21st-century journalism.

When we fight our users and try to keep them at arms-length, we’ll never fully understand what they want. Ultimately, we cannot survive without making products that people care about.

We must trust our audience before they can trust us.