When journalist Rod Hicks started digging into why people don’t trust information from reputable news outlets, he turned to Wyoming.

A Gallup and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation survey ranked Wyoming as the least trusting state, when it comes to media, in the nation. Wyoming scored a 25 out of a possible 100 points on the 2018 survey’s “trust scale,” similar to Nebraska, Utah, North Dakota and Idaho, which each ranked either 27 or 28. In contrast, the most trusting states — Hawaii, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Maryland and New Jersey — all scored in the 40s.

“Really what we’re trying to do is understand where this distrust is coming from,” Hicks said. “We’re really trying to get a good handle on that.”

To do that Hicks launched a six-month project in Casper in which about 30 residents participated in discussion about media distrust and related topics. Now the rest of the state can tune into the discussion.

Wyoming PBS will livestream the final session — “Dear National News Media: Why Should We Trust You?” — from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday from the Krampert Theatre on the Casper College campus. The forum will give the public a chance to interact with national newsmakers from The Associated Press, BuzzFeed News, NBC News, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. It is free and open to the public.

“What we found to be valuable to the participants was to give them a chance, to not just vent to me but to vent directly to the press,” Hicks said.

In a separate event Jackson Hole readers are invited to come talk with reporters and editors from the News&Guide and Jackson Hole Daily about the state of journalism in the Tetons. Following on the heels of the “Coffee with an Editor” series, Editor Johanna Love welcomes the community to the newsroom’s first “Pitches and Pints” event from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Roadhouse Brewery Tap Room.

Community members are invited to bring story ideas and questions or just stop by to chat with reporters and editors about the craft of journalism. The first 10 people to arrive will receive a free pint.

“Although you probably see reporters and photographers out in the community, this event allows newsroom members to engage with residents in a relaxed manner,” Love said. “Ask us questions, pitch us stories. We want to hear how you think we’re doing and what kinds of articles you want to read.”

Readers tend to be more trusting of local media than national media so Hicks expects Tuesday’s Casper forum — focused specifically on national news — to draw some tough questions. Panelists include Neal Lipschutz, deputy editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal; Noreen Gillespie, deputy managing editor for U.S. News for The Associated Press; Lori Montgomery, deputy national editor for The Washington Post; and Hayes Brown, world news editor and senior reporter for BuzzFeed News.

“Working to earn the trust of readers and viewers is crucial to the value of journalism, as it always has been,” Lipschutz said in a news release.

Originally, Pete Williams, justice correspondent for NBC News and a Casper native, was scheduled to moderate. He canceled because he is expected to cover former special counsel Robert Mueller as he testifies publicly about his two-year Russia investigation before the House Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee on July 17, according to Hicks.

Hicks said news media coverage of President Trump came up frequently in the earlier Casper sessions, which attracted a mix of conservative, liberal and moderate participants.

The Society for Professional Journalists Foundation is the primary funder of “Media Trust and Democracy: The Casper Project” with additional support from the Wyoming Community Foundation, Wyoming Humanities Council and Town Square Media. A former Associated Press reporter, Hicks “put the meat on the bone” of the project after being hired to serve as the SPJ Journalist on Call.

Among the most successful sessions that could be replicated, Hicks said, was an in-depth conversation about what constitutes bias and how to distinguish between opinion page commentary and news stories. The project’s findings will be presented at a session at the Excellence in Journalism 2019 conference in September in San Antonio.

“This will be a great way for our time in Casper to come to a close, by bringing members of the public and national journalists together to freely discuss the state of journalism and the relationship between the public and journalists in today’s climate,” said Irwin Gratz, president of the SPJ Foundation. “We look forward to the conversation and hope it will provide insights into improving that relationship moving forward.” 

Contact Managing Editor Rebecca Huntington at 732-7078 or rebecca@jhnewsandguide.com.

Managing Editor Rebecca Huntington has worked for newspapers across the West. She hosts a rescue podcast, The Fine Line. Her family minivan doubles as her not-so-high-tech recording studio.

(5) comments

Chad guenter

I would trust stephan and dale the pressmen more than a "trained" journalist to report news. Journalism today is pure propaganda. Just as Edward Bernays described long ago

Steven Kardas

Mr Hicks is also being disingenuous about why many of the public no longer has trust in journalists. What I mean is that he and his peers in the "craft of journalism" (what ever that means), as a group, constantly pretend to not understand the situation and feign confusion about loosing the trust of a large segment of the population. Like its some sort of mystery that requires an investigation and study. Give me a break. They do know why but there will absolutely be be no apologies, retractions, corrections, or hard questioning of democrate politicians. None, zero. Its just not going to happen folks. The liberals have assumed ramming speed and the end justifies the means regardless of the damage done to our people and country.

Ken Chison

Are these supposed "professional journalists" really that naive? One word sums up the whole journalism field. Collusion. A fictitious narrative, pushed by the left, with no proof or merit. An entirely fabricated story that was pushed, by the media, as gospel. Then, when found to be nothing more than that, no apologies or retractions on any of it. Do they really need to organize a get together to try and figure out how biased and one sided journalism is, and why people don't trust them? Only the weak minded would believe anything this liberal based panel would have to say. The news and guide alone show tremendous bias towards those they don't agree with. It wasn't until a local contributor wrote a piece on progressives threatening and harassing Republican field office representatives, here locally, and not one mention of it otherwise. If this would have been a role reversal, I would imagine we would have had a dozen stories by now on it. Crimes committed by local white, citizens are investigated to the ends of the Earth. Two other individuals who flee an accident in Wilson, got minimal print. No follow up, no mention of where they are from, or their legal status. Yet journalists all believe that only their views and beliefs should be printed, rather than the truth. No matter how hard it is to swallow.Hope this sheds light on a topic that most informed Americans already know.

Engage Staff
Audience Engagement

Hi, Ken. We offer events like the ones mentioned in this article specifically to have an opportunity to hear concerns readers may have and to be able to discuss these kinds of things in person. We greatly appreciate friendly conversations in which we can listen to readers’ thoughts and also have an opportunity to explain the checks and balances trained journalists go through to avoid personal opinions entering a story. Do journalists make mistakes? Of course, they are human. That’s why we also have policies in place to issue corrections when mistakes happen and to ensure that we represent multiple sides of a story in each article. Regarding what appear to be claims of racial bias in your comment, please note that professional journalists only include a person’s race when it is relevant to a story, for example, when law enforcement is looking for someone, and the person’s physical description is important. When reporters and editors decide which of many crimes and court cases to follow, they choose not based on race, but on the type and seriousness of the crimes and consequences of those crimes. -the Editors

Steven Kardas

Mr Rod Hicks, a "journalist" does not have too dig very deep to discovery why people do not trust information from so called reputable media. Please Mr Hicks, define "reputable". Journalism is now the ministry of propaganda of the Democratic political party. It is simple as that. No one trusts a constant lier or people who intentionally withhold information to spin a story. The relentless message spewing daily from the main stream media is that Democratic politicians are perfect saints and do no wrong and that Republicans , President Donald Trump and all who support them are evil. This constant media message is very insulting to millions of Americans like me so we become skeptics. . Please do not waste our time with these self serving investigations into the obvious.

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