Credibility is an area where small papers can excel

Gary Sawyer, editor of the Decatur Herald and Review in Illinois, knows a major factor in his paper’s customer loyalty is credibility.

While getting news to the customer quickly has always been a major goal of every news source, the digital age ha

s brought forth a new level of delivery speed, which in turn has affected the credibility of news in general.

“I think every paper has the ability to provide good credibility,” Sawyer said. “(Credibility) is what you have with your customers that allow them to trust you. With digital media, you have the ability to post information instantly, whereas with print you have more time so you can make sure your information is correct.”

There are multiple issues that the digital media world has with credibility, and some can be attributed toward the idea that digital media is a new media, and therefore hasn’t been mastered by news companies quite yet.

Steve Outing, a writer for the online news source, “Digital News Test Kitchen,” writes that an issue with credibility in today’s media is the deciding factors that the audience uses to judge if what they trust is true.

He writes, “Just because ‘the crowd’ ‘Likes’ a news story in large numbers doesn’t tell you anything about how credible it might be.” While this may seem simple, it truly explains an underlying issue with online news media. It is easy for readers to judge the truth behind a story by it’s “retweets” or “likes,” but this only shows that the story is winning the popularity contest. Larger news sources reach a broader audience and therefore can attain more popularity.

Saywer says another issue with the credibility is a lack of identification.

“One problem is the use of unnamed sources,” he said. “At the Herald and Review, we have a policy that we don’t use unnamed sources, and if we do, we tell the readers why we have to. Large papers shouldn’t allow for government leaders and other figures to remain anonymous because it skews the message.”

Although they may not have the flare and audience of the bigger papers, small news sources remain credible by staying true to what they do best, relating to the customer. While media is moving online more and more each day, it doesn’t have to be handled in the same way that major outlets have approached the situation. Smaller news sources are becoming more involved in social media to deliver the news, but have avoided the rat race that the major sources have enveloped themselves in order be the first to deliver. By staying clear of this competition, they can avoid the backlash of opposing papers.

“There are a lot of attacks on the media right now, and obviously bigger sources take the brute force because they are more well-known,” Sawyer said. “There is something to be said about columnists who complain about mainstream media, when in reality, they are a part of mainstream media.”

While they have never had the spotlight of the major outlets, small papers remain credible and trusted because of a responsibility to their customers.

“Smaller papers are more likely to take the time to try and make sure that everything’s correct,” Sawyer said. “They don’t have as much to contend with so they want to make sure everything’s right, which the customer appreciates.”

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