A Mat­ter of Trust

Forbes - - SIDELINES - —RAN­DALL LANE, CHIEF CON­TENT OF­FI­CER

A TAUT NEW BROAD­WAY PLAY, The Life­span of a Fact, pits a writer, a mag­a­zine ed­i­tor and a fact-checker (Harry Pot­ter’s Daniel Rad­cliffe) in a three-way grap­ple over the na­ture of truth. Hav­ing played all three roles in real life, I found it ex­cep­tion­ally per­cep­tive, and never more so than when the ed­i­tor de­clared to her restive charges: “The en­tire en­ter­prise comes down to trust.”

In­deed it does, es­pe­cially given the cur­rent na­tional cli­mate. Amer­i­cans have in­creas­ingly lost faith in their in­sti­tu­tions, whether po­lit­i­cal or gov­ern­men­tal, busi­ness or me­dia, as those in­sti­tu­tions have in­creas­ingly felt far­ther re­moved from them—a dy­namic too many dem­a­gogues hap­pily ac­cel­er­ate for their own ends.

That’s what made a study mea­sur­ing trust in the me­dia re­leased in Oc­to­ber very timely. In com­pil­ing its first ever News Me­dia Trust In­dex, Sim­mons Re­search sur­veyed more than 2,000 Amer­i­can adults—a huge sam­pling for some­thing like this. I was enor­mously proud to see Forbes land in the top five of all news sources—and first of any mag­a­zine or news oper­a­tion fo­cused pri­mar­ily on free on­line jour­nal­ism.

As the Broad­way ed­i­tor said, that’s the en­tire en­ter­prise. Yes, we pro­duce jour­nal­ism. But with­out trust, all those words, pho­tos, videos and live events are worth­less.

We score well de­spite the fact that— or, I would ar­gue, be­cause—our jour­nal­ism has a point of view. We en­cour­age and even de­mand that our sto­ry­tellers form an opin­ion, usu­ally stem­ming from our be­lief in the power of en­trepreneurs. But that opin­ion needs to be rooted in fair­ness, trans­parency—and facts. Ev­ery word and num­ber in this mag­a­zine was fact-checked (af­ter run­ning voter regis­tra­tion and birth records, we even found two peo­ple who at­tempted to fudge their way onto the 30 Un­der 30 list).

One of my pre­de­ces­sors, Jim Michaels, used to call Forbes the “drama crit­ics of busi­ness.” Great crit­ics, whether Pauline Kael in movies or Jonathan Gold in food or Herbert Muschamp in ar­chi­tec­ture, prove nei­ther crowd-pleas­ing nor im­par­tial. But in valu­ing their au­di­ence—and their cred­i­bil­ity—over their sub­jects, they are, above all, trusted.

We ap­pre­ci­ate that faith. On be­half of our news­room of 150 full-time jour­nal­ists, 2,500 paid con­trib­u­tors and 43 edi­tions around the globe, we pledge to do ev­ery­thing in our power to honor it.

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