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Articles, News

What the Media Got Right: 3 Post-Election Lessons for News Publishers

By Kristen Dunleavy

In the days leading up to the 2020 Election, it was widely debated how the news media would handle calling the results. Now that the dust has settled, it’s clear that news media’s increased transparency around reporting practices went a long way in building trust and integrity with their audiences. 

Let’s take a closer look at three key areas where the media shined during the 2020 election, and a few important takeaways that news publishers can use to help grow their audiences moving forward.

1. Build trust through transparency

For the first time in a long time, the public didn’t just want the news – they wanted to better understand how the news media reported the news. Readers were hungry for details about the electoral process, especially amidst claims of voter fraud and unprecedented numbers of early voters. That’s why increased transparency around news coverage was essential during the 2020 election. The AP did an exemplary job of this by carefully explaining their process of calling the results, including how they’ve done so in past elections. 

One example of this is the AP’s explainer about why – as of November 13th – they hadn’t called Georgia for Biden, even though the majority of other networks already had. (It’s the organization’s standard practice to not call a race in a state that is subject to a recount.)

It may seem like a no-brainer, but providing readers with increased transparency around reporting practices is key for news publishers to build trust, credibility, and help grow healthy communities. 

2. Forge lasting connections by reaching out to readers 

Journalists were faced with the challenge of demystifying election results and debunking misinformation, so some publishers took transparency a step further by directly connecting journalists with readers. For example, HuffPo hosted several Ask Me Anything virtual lounges on their website where readers could interact with a HuffPo Politics Editor in real-time. 

Similarly, Fox News used the OpenWeb Live Blog on their website to provide readers with up-to-the-second updates from reporters. The network saw a big spike in engagement on their website even after the election results were called, with one recent article garnering 10K+ comments within two hours (it currently has 24K+ comments). It’s likely that readers who originally visited the website for real-time updates from the Live Blog continued coming back to read additional articles and engage within the Fox News community.

The fact is, 23% of readers want to talk directly with experts and journalists. For news publishers, this underscores the importance of connecting journalists with readers to drive lasting connections that keep readers coming back.

3. Establish integrity by calling out false information, transparently

With unsubstantiated accusations of widespread voter fraud running rampant, news publishers not only had the added challenge of debunking false information, they needed to explain to the public how they planned on doing so. 

When President Trump claimed that the election was corrupted, several networks released statements about why they chose to cut away from a livestream of his speech. MSNBC – one of the first to cut away – explained that they did so “not as a stunt, or out of theatrics,” but as an effort to stop the spread of misinformation.

The BBC also recently opened up about their own practices on debunking misinformation, including their efforts to avoid rushing to publish a piece until all of the necessary experts have weighed in. The organization acknowledged that their readers do not always believe that their political leaders are straightforward in their statements to the public, so taking these extra steps against misinformation goes a long way in building trust with their audience.

Looking ahead, it’s likely that audiences will expect more explanations like these in the future, especially as it pertains to how news publishers plan on stopping the spread of misinformation.

Want to learn more about how news publishers can grow a loyal, thriving community? Read our post, The path to user loyalty and lifetime value.

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