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How Insider uses Twitter Q&As to increase transparency and trust

November 3, 2022 | By Jessica Patterson – Independent Media Reporter @jesspatterson

In an era where journalism faces a crisis of trust among audiences, Insider has taken to Twitter. 

Since 2021, Insider has done over a dozen live Twitter conversations called #TheInsideStory with its staff – from its Singapore bureau chief, to travel and entertainment editors, to reporters covering finance and health. The goal of the series is to help its audience connect with the newsroom and better understand why its staff are passionate about the beats they cover, says Alexandra Cancino, Insider’s Marketing Communications Manager. 

In June 2022, Insider did a proprietary study with its readers called Minding the Generation Gap: Media Usage & Trust Across Generations, to better understand how different generation demographics consume and trust media. They found that 94% of Insider readers feel that trustworthiness of a source is important, which reinforced the idea behind The Inside Story according to Cancino. 

The series kicked off in September 2021 with a live Q&A with Conz Preti, Insider’s parenting + health editor. The goal of the series is to give the audience a behind-the-scenes look at how Insider’s journalism is done. It also gives Insider’s journalists and editors a chance to talk about work, their networks, and their interests. 

With six more scheduled through to the end of the year, the series outlines how reporters and editors work. They showcase the breadth and depth of reportage and help grow journalists’ profiles. 

“We’re able to use these Q&As as a way to give readers a ‘behind-the-scenes’ peek at who our reporters and editors are, as well as how they perform their craft, including how they source, vet, and share information,” Cancino says. “We want them to feel what feels like a personal relationship with Insider and get to know the correspondents and editors better and why they do what they do.”

Insider view

In one Q&A, Insider spoke with media correspondent Reed Alexander, who was a finance reporter at the time of his Twitter conversation. As a finance reporter, Alexander wrote about the global economy, Wall Street, banks, and markets. The Inside Story gave Alexander the opportunity to get his work in front of a potentially broader audience. It also allowed him to share a side of him that his colleagues didn’t often get to see. 

“I had the opportunity to share with our Insider community some of what makes me passionate about business reporting, as well as to share insights into my other undertakings, like teaching a journalism class to undergrads at the University of Miami,” he said. It also “allowed me to share a side of my life that my work community doesn’t often get to see — for instance, pointing out some of my mentors in the newsroom, and explaining how I transitioned from the entertainment industry to a life in journalism.”

Earlier in October, Insider also did a Twitter Q&A with Health Correspondent Hilary Brueck focusing on what was happening in the public health sphere. As a health correspondent, Brueck writes about all facets of public health, including debunking health misinformation and reporting on health-related news. 

“The Q&A was a nice opportunity to highlight some of my recent work and share how I approach stories on my beat,” she said. The best part of the Q&A, according to Brueck, “was probably the unexpected opportunity it gave me to connect and reconnect with colleagues and sources who I’ve worked with through the years.”

Evaluating engagement

The live Twitter Q&As have had a knock-on effect in terms of engagement following the events. 

Cancino said the Q&As generated thousands of impressions on Twitter and a strong engagement rate — more than 100x Twitter’s benchmark. (According to Statista, the overall Twitter engagement rate is .04%.)

“Our reporters do a great job engaging with and tagging people, groups, and organizations they work with, and those accounts often engage back via retweets and replies,” Cancino said. 

“I definitely saw an uptick in likes and retweets on my tweets generally,” Alexander says. “It’s always difficult to isolate or pinpoint one reason for anything as a driver of a broader phenomenon, but certainly I would say it was a benefit for engagement.” 

Takeaways

With public trust of national news organizations in decline and widening partisan divides, news organizations are wise to embrace strategies to combat it and regain trust. Contemporary research suggests that transparency is a strategy to improve the public trust and brand perceptions, which in turn presents a way to restore and strengthen trust in journalism. 

Perhaps the industry should do showing, not just telling. Insider has found that its Inside Story Twitter Q&As offer just such an opportunity.

“As journalists we should be coming out behind the veil and making ourselves available. We are asking sources … to avail themselves and be open with us. I do think there is an expectation or a best practice of doing that reflexively for our audience and giving them a sense of who we are,” Alexander says. 

Being accessible and visible to the audiences and communities that journalists engage with will make them better practitioners of journalism, Alexander says. “I think it’s a great thing for other journalists to be doing… We want people to come to us for various reasons, to engage with us, to read our content, to share information. You know, how do people know where to find you if you are not really available to them and readily accessible?”

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