Building a News Site with the Mindset of Transparent Media (As of 01/18/2022)
(Editor’s note: this is subject to change as Queer on the Street grows. Any additions to the transparency statement will be reflected in date of the headline)
As Queer on the Street’s Editor-in-Chief and Founder, Nic, has said repeatedly, transparency is extremely important to them and to the readers. Queer on the Street defines media transparency as including multiple points of view, at least three sources when possible, open about how certain information was obtained and a public view of funding. So… what does that mean, exactly?
Transparent media is not a new concept and dates back to the 1920s - in American journalism, at least - and worked on the belief that journalists should have a consistent process of “verifying information and present that process in a way that people could understand it and make up their own minds what to think,” Carrie Brown Smith, an assistant professor in the Journalism Department at the University of Memphis, said in her Nieman Labs 2018 Predictions article.
It navigates how media publications gather, use and distribute information. There are other factors such as how the information is handled internally, too. This concept can apply to everyone involved in the process of writing a story, press release and so on (journalists, editors, public relations people, government officials, law enforcement, spokespeople, etc.)
“Having been called ‘enemies of the people’ by our highest-ranking public official, reporters are starting to recognize the importance of not just a knee-jerk defense of their work, but one that shows exactly how they work to uncover wrongdoing and check facts,” Brown Smith said in her Nieman Labs 2018 Predictions article.
The goal is to build the relationship between journalists and readers by giving them the who, what, where, when, why and how the process works. By using a transparent media concept, the media can be open and hold themselves accountable but it’s not as simple as that. We want our readers to feel like they can trust us and that does not happen overnight.
There are several categories of journalism:
Investigative: uses in-depth reporting, data and document analysis, etc. to uncover scandals, scams, schemes, etc.
Watch-dog: uses journalistic techniques to hold governments, businesses and other institutions accountable.
Political: uses journalistic techniques to focus on government, politics, political candidates, political activity, etc.
Opinion: expression of personal views and opinions, with little to no attempt to make the story objective.
Entertainment: focuses on pop-culture and those involved in such.
Trade: focuses on a specific industry or field.
Sports: focuses on sporting events and teams
Queer on the Street will typically focus on investigative, watch-dog, political, entertainment and opinion stories. All culture stories that are reviews of a type of media are considered opinion pieces. Any explicit opinion pieces will be marked as such.
Director of the School of Communication and Associate Professor of Journalism at Rochester Institute of Technology, Andrea Hickerson, and Associate Professor of Management at Rochester Institute of Technology, Michael Palanski, said in a 2019 Conversation article, “transparency should constitute some sort of explanation to the consumer about decision-making involved in the story.” What this comes down to is that there is a relationship that needs to be built upon… and this is a relationship: writer and reader, publisher and consumer, and so on.
Along with this, transparency can look like explaining why a story was chosen. Hickerson and Palanski use the example of the 2017 New York Times’ article that profiled a white nationalist and how the media publication later provided an explanation as to why the story was covered… only after readers were upset that the publication sympathized with Nazis. Hickerson and Palanski said transparent journalists “could be a longer “story behind the story,’” using Vice News’ coverage of the ethnic cleansing in the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example .
published as a sidebar that explains both how and why a story was reported, such as Vice News did when covering ethnic cleansing in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Vice News reporter, Nick Turse, wrote at the top of the article his process: “I spoke with more than 300 people — including community leaders, current and former government officials, soldiers and high-ranking military officers, activists, analysts, U.N. officials, and aid workers…” and so on.
Another example of a media outlet using the story behind the story concept is USA Today. The media organization ran an article about racism in college yearbooks after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s 1984 photo surfaced of him in Blackface next to a person dressed in Ku Klux Klan regalia. Afterwards, USA Today published an article titled, “Here's how we examined 900 yearbooks — and why,” which explained the process their reporters used to report the original story.
Two common ways that journalists integrate transparency, online at least, is through hyperlinking to original documents and data sources to provide additional evidence. This technique is also seen throughout this article and articles on Queer on the Street
“But research in organizational management shows that while both the explanation and disclosure aspects of transparency are important for building trust, they are not enough and they need to be coordinated. In fact, by practicing only a partial version of transparency, journalism may well be harming itself and further damaging the public’s trust in its work,” Hickerson and Palanski said.
There are pitfalls to transparent media, of course. It is not a perfect practice and humans are fallible creatures; no amount of autocorrect can fix discrepancies. Scholars Andrew Schnackenberg and Edward Tomlinson believe there are three parts to transparency: disclosure, accuracy and clarity.
Degrees and years of experience mean nothing when it comes to building relationships; time, commitment, consistency and honesty are the main ways in which trust can be built.
Journalists are supposed to remain unbiased when writing news stories and only supposed to present the facts or arguments from both sides of the story. While being unbiased is the goal, it’s not always possible. This can be difficult for many reasons, the main one: we are human just like you and have our own thoughts, feelings and ideas about a topic. It is important to note that being biased doesn’t automatically equate prejudice but sometimes it does.
Queer on the Street’s news articles strive to have both sides of the story when possible. Sometimes, it is difficult to obtain the other side’s point of view because the person(s) or organization are unavailable for comment or do not wish to do so. If this is the case, it will be stated in the article along with the number and ways the person or organization was contacted.
News sources and other forms of media (TV shows, films, books) directly influence the type of information that does and does not get published by choosing which stories get told, which ones get put on the chopping block, which ones go on the front page, which ones go in the back and so on. Currently, Queer on the Street is a small team - it’s Nic and sometimes their friend Rob. That means that it is impossible for Queer on the Street to cover everything that is happening but in time, and hopefully future funding, we hope to expand and be able to hire writers, editors, fact-chekers and contract freelancers to help us out.
Sometimes the media influences information through native advertising. This “the use of paid ads that match the look, feel and function of the media format in which they appear... They look like part of the editorial flow of the page. The key to native advertising is that it is non-disruptive - it exposes the reader to advertising content without sticking out like a sore thumb,” according to Outbrain, a tech company. By not directly indicating it was a paid ad and not journalism can lead the reader to lose an amount of trust in the news source. As of right now, Queer on the Street does not plan to use this concept as it puts our name on the line but if this changes in the future, all native advertising will be extremely clear.
The American Press Institute released what it believes to be the seven characteristics of accountability journalists which are - for verbatim - the following:
“Exhibit broad curiosity; eagerly adapt to new technologies and platforms.
Think about multiple audiences.
Work hard to create context for their audiences.
Smartly balance their time on story choices and audience interactions.
Spend considerable time building relationships with sources, readers.
Build connections and teamwork within their own newsrooms.
Find their own way and direct their own work.”
Queer on the Street takes these and plans to do the following:
Never stop looking for stories to write about and will grow with society’s technological advances as it happens.
Understand that our experiences are not and will never be one size fits all. The LGBTQ+ community is nuanced and complex. Our readers come from different backgrounds, cultures, races, ethnicities, religions, regions, etc.
Explain stories in a manner that is not overly complicated but also not too simple.
Work on time management until the flow is right for us. (This one is difficult right now as it is just Nic and sometimes Rob but as Queer on the Street grows, we will be able to figure it out).
Be what our name is - the queer on the street. We plan to be in the streets, engaging with current and potential future readers while finding stories that our readers are interested in.
Due to being just Nic and sometimes Rob on the team, this is tricky. However, as Queer on the Street grows, we will find ways to make sure all team members feel supported.
Queer on the Street will always allow (future) writers to have the creative freedom they would like to have within the realms of reason and as long as it has journalistic integrity.
Transparency goes further than how a story is reported, it also includes finances.
Costs of Running Queer on the Street
Payment to writers
$200 to Robert for 10 articles (as of 01/18/2022)
Premium pro plan $276.00/year
Last paid on 12/15/21
Next payment 12/1/22
Domain #1: $68.55/three years
Last paid on 4/26/21
Next billing date 3/27/2024
Domain #2: $14.95 paid/yearly
Last paid 06/09/2021
Next billing date 6/08/2022 (yearly)
Social Media Scheduler
Adobe creative cloud
$40/month on average
Working on a 2015 macbook pro ($2,000+taxes at time of purchase)
Queer on the Street’s Income
As of 01/18/2022, there have not been any donations, advertising payment, etc. All costs have been paid by Nic and the income they receive from their full-time job.
Some Additional Reading Material
The Future Of Fact-Checking: Moving Ahead In Political Accountability Journalism | American Press Institute
A New Way Of Looking At Trust In Media: Do Americans Share Journalism’s Core Values? | American Press Institute
7 Characteristics Of Effective Accountability Journalists | American Press Institute
Media Transparency | Wikipedia (Crowd sourced information)
Transparency Finally Takes Off | Nieman Lab
Transparency in Journalism Can Rebuild Public Trust | The City Journal
Indicators of News Media Trust | The Knight Foundation