Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 25, 2020

THE PUBLIC EDITOR: Won't you be our readers?

Announcing the reader trust survey

By JAKE LEFKOVITZ | July 7, 2020

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COURTESY OF KATY WILNER

Public Editor Jake Lefkovitz is distributing a survey to better understand The News-Letter’s readers.

Today, the future looks uncertain, and the conditions of life seem untenable. This is what it means to live in times of crisis. And in times such as these, the journalist’s highest form of service is to faithfully deliver to the public whatever measure of clarity and understanding that they can. But to do that, they need the public’s trust. They need to have earned it in the past, and to have kept earning it ever since. 

I count at least three ongoing, interlocking crises right now. There is the public-health crisis of the coronavirus (COVID-19). There is the social crisis of millions of Americans revolting against the racism which still pervades the United States. And there is the economic crisis of historic unemployment leaving millions of Americans unable to secure for themselves the necessities of life. 

What this situation calls for is a strong relationship between the public and the media organizations, such as The News-Letter, that serve them. The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics reminds us that good journalism creates the public understanding that enables the pursuit of justice and democracy. Good journalism makes crisis comprehensible. 

That is only possible with the trust of you, the paper’s readers. To initiate investigations, we need your tips. To report stories, we need to hear your voices. To run photos, we need you to show up. And to feel like it was all worth it at the end of the day, we need to know that you consider us worth listening to. 

To secure your trust, the paper’s staff and editors owe you certain duties. They must always seek truth and report it. Minimize harm. Act independently. Be accountable and transparent. When they credibly perform these duties, they give the public good reason to trust the integrity of the paper. That trust is what in the end makes the work of the staff and editors meaningful. 

The stakes are too high for the paper to be some kind of vanity project. In times like these, our journalism needs to serve you. It needs to empower you. That takes integrity on our part and trust on yours. In large part, my job with the paper is to make sure that we act with that integrity. But it is also to evaluate if that is actually translating into public trust.

That is why today I am excited to be launching The News-Letter reader trust survey. As the public editor, I can monitor the staff and editors’ performances. But I can not gauge your level of trust. Not without hearing from all of you. So consider this survey an invitation. I want to hear how you feel about the paper. I want to hear what we can do to better earn your trust. Because we are going to need it to meet the challenges of meaningfully reporting on the world that we are all living in right now.

The survey should take between five to eight minutes to completely fill out. You can find the direct link to it here. Thank you in advance to all who choose to participate. 



We want you to be part of this conversation! We encourage our readers to email publiceditor@jhunewsletter.com with questions or comments about our practices and published content.

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