From the Editor: Do you trust what you read in the paper
By Kit Slack
On July 18, Hyattsville’s city councilmembers voted unanimously to renew the city’s contract with our news organization, Streetcar Suburbs Publishing.
Under that contract, we publish the Hyattsville Reporter. City staff write the Reporter, which covers city services and events, and takes up the middle two pages of an independent monthly newspaper, the Hyattsville Life & Times.
That’s this newspaper.
Here’s a question for you: Do you trust what you read in the Hyattsville Life & Times?
Some readers have asked whether our partial reliance on city funding creates a bias in our reporting on city government. Others have asked whether we pay our volunteers with free promotional stories about their pet causes.
Let me tell you about some policies we have in place that help us deliver news you can trust.
City coverage: We never allow city staff to review and comment on articles that we write before they are published. We check staff statements against publicly available information, such as written documents, contracts and recorded public meetings, and we ask questions when there are discrepancies. We strive to provide objective and balanced information about city issues and policy proposals rather than taking positions or advocating. Where there’s controversy, we include information and voices on different sides of the question.
Advertisers: We maintain a firewall between our business team and our editorial staff. That means our business team does not assign articles for the newspaper or review articles before we publish them.
Staff & Volunteers: It is hard to exaggerate how small our operation is. Streetcar Suburbs Publishing is a homegrown nonprofit that began in 2004 with just one paper, for Hyattsville; we added a paper for College Park two years ago and one for Laurel this July. We produce these three monthly newspapers – 36 issues a year – on a shoestring budget that relies on 12 part-time staff who collectively earn less than $130,000 a year — that’s an average of less than $11,000 each.
We couldn’t produce these newspapers without the additional contributions of volunteers, who range from seasoned reporters to writers seeing their names in print for the first time. Some writers want to learn more about their community and share what they learn. Others hope to improve their city by rallying fellow-residents to support a cause.
As we work with our volunteers, we keep high standards of journalistic integrity. We approach this in two ways: First, we provide our writers with editorial guidance and oversight.
Second, we provide opportunities for the papers’ contributors to do subjective reporting, such as articles marked “From Where I Stand” or “My Two Cents”. In those pieces, we ask writers to make clear their personal connection to what they are writing about, and, for further clarity, starting this month, we are including disclaimers explaining that the views expressed are those of the author, not the newspaper.
Corrections: While we do our best to check and recheck our sources, we rely on careful readers and involved citizens to catch mistakes, and we correct errors as promptly and clearly as we can. You’ll often see corrections in these pages, like the one on page .
Letters to the editor: In two letters to the editor this month, (see p. ) readers give different perspectives on a topic we covered in last month’s paper. We generally seek to include a variety of viewpoints in the letters we publish, just as we do in our news articles, and we welcome letters that deepen our readers’ understanding of our shared community, and local issues.
Board of directors: This summer, our board of directors revised its bylaws to incorporate a conflict of interest policy, like the one previously adopted and posted on our website, which forbids board members from lobbying the board or editorial staff on matters in which they have a personal or financial interest.
Community forums: The board is planning community forums in each of the cities where we operate to get more feedback from readers. More from us about that soon.
Trust in newspapers and television news is decreasing, nationally, as polarized consumers head to online information sources that bolster their existing views. Still, a recent poll by Gallup and the Knight Foundation shows that Americans trust local news more than other sources.
We strive to provide hyperlocal news you can trust, a foundation of reliable local information that allows residents to participate in the community and in city, and even county, government.
If you have questions about how things work around here, or you’d like to volunteer to write or help in another way, please contact email@example.com.