Wausau Pilot & Review

People value local reporting about their community. But their low opinions of and trust in coverage of national politics and cultural issues are affecting how people view their local news outlet. This is a scenario that’s playing out in newsrooms in Wausau, Marathon County, Wisconsin and around the country.

At Wausau Pilot & Review, we understand that you value our reporting on community issues. But we know, too, that journalists must build into their routines continued learning about the diverse people in their communities, especially with people and groups whose voices aren’t always as fully represented in the newsroom. Journalists’ characterizations can make people feel flattened out or placed into one-size-fits-all categories. We asked ourselves, how can we tell more accurate, more complex stories about the spectrum of perspectives in our communities?

This week, we were accepted into the Pluralism Network, an initiative by Trusting News that aims to help journalists strengthen trust across the political spectrum to bridge divides, foster productive conversations and fuel open-mindedness. Trusting News is a research and training project that empowers journalists to demonstrate credibility and earn trust.

News consumers often say they want stories that “just give me the facts” and “include both sides.” So what makes a story feel fair or balanced to the reader? What makes it feel opinionated? And how do those elements play out in the decisions journalists make day to day about things like sourcing, word choice, and headline writing?

Those are the questions we’ll be exploring as part of the network, a group of like-minded journalists interested in building trust in a polarized world. By participating in this unique program, we’ll have conversations with other journalists from around the country and collaborate on how they we reach and be trusted by a more diverse audience with fact-based, responsible journalism. 

Healthy democracies depend on civic dialogue and a shared set of facts. The team at Trusting News believes local news especially can play an important role in bridging conversations across political divides. Our goal is to better understand the societal and psychological forces that influence polarization and perceptions of news.

You can learn more about this effort by reading this piece from Joy Mayer, a network leader who explains that pluralism is a belief that there is more than one acceptable way of looking at things. In it, she explains that “conversations — and journalism — about public life and societal issues too often revolve around extreme views, dehumanizing arguments and ‘us vs them’ assumptions. Research has found journalists overrepresent the views of extreme partisans, giving the impression of an exaggerated polarization. Moderate views and compromise aren’t as dramatic and get less attention.

We are excited to have been chosen for the network and look forward to serving you, our readers, in the best possible way moving forward.