Taking steps to promote better understanding

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Newspapers and their readers aren’t always speaking the same language.

That’s not a good way to treat your customers.

And it can lead to allegations of “fake news,” crumbling credibility and outright anger.

In light of new research that shows the gap between the general population and journalists — and the possibilities for building better understanding between the two camps — The Press is taking steps immediately to more clearly communicate what you’re reading.

Labeling has a bad reputation, but with the increased blurring of lines that separate news, opinion and advertising, we’re stepping up the labeling game.

Columns — the sometimes newsy, often opinion-laced articles that usually are accompanied by a photo of the writer — seem to be one of the biggest sources of reader confusion or frustration. Even when most of these pieces include verifiable facts, we’re going to put an OPINION, ANALYSIS or some other label on them to differentiate them from standard news stories.

For instance, the work of columnist Sholeh Patrick and writer/researcher Uyless Black will typically carry ANALYSIS labels. Columnist Steve Cameron’s offerings — subjects and treatments range far and wide — will carry labels appropriate to each column. Consumer advocate Bill Brooks’s twice weekly columns will be labeled ADVICE. And so on.

The rise of advertising that looks like news will also be more clearly labeled. For example, sponsored content — legitimate news stories that are paid for by a business that’s likely to benefit in some way by the distribution of that content — will be labeled ADVERTISING: Sponsored content. Similarly, content in the format of news but that’s submitted by an advertiser will be labeled ADVERTISING: Advertorial.

Another source of frustration for some readers is the perceived fairness or lack thereof from The Associated Press. The AP provides newspapers the broadest selection of information in the world, at a cost that’s affordable to small newspapers like this one. Stock listings, sports box scores, international news, breaking news, Idaho capital coverage, investigations and much more are all part of the daily AP mission. Content produced by thousands of professional newspaper reporters around the world is also distributed by The AP. The Press will continue to subscribe to AP but its editors will watch more closely for bias in its content.

The Press rarely uses unnamed sources in its reporting, which is probably why few readers have expressed confusion or dissatisfaction with the way we attribute information in our content. However, reporters and editors are instructed to ensure attribution is clear — that the reader will easily understand why that person or source is being included in the article.

Because The Press is put together every single day by human beings, mistakes are going to happen. That doesn’t mean we need to hide admission of factual errors from our readers.

Effective immediately, all Corrections will appear on the front page of the newspaper, in the column at the far left of the page.

These may be small steps in the march toward greater understanding and trust, but they’re a beginning. Please let us know what else we can do to shorten the bridge between us. Email Editor Mike Patrick at mpatrick@cdapress.com or call him, 208-664-0227.

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