How Do Publishers Step Up During Times of Crisis?
“Journalism’s most critical role in a crisis is to provide information people need to make decisions for the safety of family and community. That is our mission.”
That quote comes from a Tweet by Kristin Roberts, Vice President of News for McClatchy. Although the Tweet specifically refers to the role of journalism during a crisis, it’s not difficult to see how a decidedly similar, if not the same sentiment can be extended to the broader publishing community during trying times as well. Whatever the circumstances may be, when the public faces a crisis, we turn to publishers as our trusted sources of information.
Recently, this notion has become even more evident. In the midst of a global health crisis, publishers and journalists have done a skillful job reporting on a rapidly-evolving, complex story in near real-time. These efforts have not only provided the public with vital information, but they’ve also helped to curb the spread of misinformation and the negative effects that are associated with it.
For these reasons and more, it’s important to acknowledge the hard work that publishers invest into cultivating trust within their readers, and to shine a light on its undeniable value — including in times of crisis.
Vital Coverage in Uncertain Times
During times when the public is feeling uncertain or anxious, publishers have a reputation for stepping up and providing reliable, essential information. For some, it’s a privilege that has been earned over decades. The New York Times, for example, has a legacy that spans nearly 170 years. That said, it doesn’t take over a century and a half to nurture this kind of relationship; audiences are more than willing to develop loyal relationships with publishers of virtually any age, just so long as they consistently report on verifiable facts without conjecture or unfounded speculation.
One can argue that this special brand of publisher-audience trust is similar to the rapport that many have with close friends and family: at the end of the day, those closest to you would rather tell you the truth or give genuine advice than lead you astray. Granted, they may not necessarily tell you what you want to hear in any given moment, but there tends to be an added layer of assurance that comes with receiving news from a trusted (and when needed, critical) source. Publishers, and especially news publishers, provide solace in much the same way.
Fighting the Spread of Misinformation
One can also argue that publishers have a responsibility to exert their influence during uncertain times. Given the access that many have to their own trusted sources, publishers can communicate the most accurate information possible. In tough situations, it’s often also on publishers to report on and communicate the gravity of any urgent situation. This helps to set a barometer for public response, and is particularly important as the news cycle moves forward.
Understandably, this relationship becomes significantly more important when audiences need immediate access to the most up-to-date, accurate information available. It’s in these situations that publishers truly excel and bend toward the greater good. For example, breaking news publishers like The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal have removed their paywalls to allow public access to their recent reporting.
It goes without saying that publishers cover other topics than breaking news, and during uncertain times, all forms of content serve an important purpose.
Moreover, it’s during uncertain times that we acknowledge that the relationships between publishers and their audiences are more important than ever. From our vantage point, these relationships have strengthened and become more reciprocal: as storytellers continue to invest in producing content, audiences have been eager to invest.