Rod Hicks spent the first half of 2019 conducting a media trust project with 36 residents in Casper, Wyoming, that included discussions about their skepticism of news reporting, presentations about issues such as news bias, and interactions with local and national journalists.
Hicks, Journalist on Call for the Society of Professional Journalists, listened to their grievances with the hope of identifying ways news organizations might address them. He also wanted to expose participants to journalists who could talk about the processes they go through to verify details they report.
Hicks summarized the project and its findings in a video and report released in September. No one changed their view of the press or their news consumption habits after going through the sessions; however, Hicks sees the exercise as a worthwhile undertaking. The project provided a more nuanced understanding of the dissatisfaction some people have with the press, he said.
“For me, one of the big takeaways is that conservatives do not see themselves reflected in mainstream news coverage,” Hicks said.
His recommendations to news outlets include getting input from the public on stories to pursue, explaining how their news operation works, and scouring stories before publication or broadcast for words or phrases that could be considered biased.