January 22, 2018
Editor's letter

I'm asking you to trust us

Brad Kane is the editor of the Worcester Business Journal.

Don't get me wrong, President Donald Trump's attacks on the news media are inexcusable and a threat to democracy. Labeling every piece of journalism he doesn't like as "fake news" undermines the public's faith in the media even when it comes to non-political reporting, such as humanitarian conditions in North Korea.

But, we also did this to ourselves.

Every news report relies on an unstated agreement between a media outlet and its audience the information contained therein is true and free of bias. Reporters must specify their sources, which builds a foundation of trust. This is vital for when a media outlet must ask its readers to take a leap of faith to report important news using less conventional means, such as anonymous sources or relying on less-than-universally-accepted perspectives like the lack of diversity in corporate leadership being bad.

Unfortunately, one of these tactics – anonymous sources – has become so institutionalized in mainstream media, the foundation of trust has eroded. The industry hit bottom last summer when ESPN put out an anonymously sourced story about how NBA star LeBron James felt about a teammate wanting to leave. This was very poor journalism because James easily proved the story wrong by saying he didn't feel that way (since only he can truly know how he feels). A few months later, it's easy to see why people could cast doubts about ESPN's anonymously sourced report about dissention in the New England Patriots.

In my time at WBJ, we've used anonymous sources twice: to report the impending acquisition of Worcester's Reliant Medical Group, and to report Pawtucket Red Sox officials attended a Worcester Railers hockey game. In retrospect, one of those stories was worth it; the other was not. I have since updated my policy toward anonymous sources.

In this issue, we aren't asking you to take any big leaps of faith, just one small one: In Zachary Comeau's "Burning anxieties" article, you'll have to trust us marijuana businesses declined to be interviewed over concerns of a federal crackdown. In future issues, though, you'll have to trust our reports are true, even if we are using anonymous sources or less-than-universally-accepted ideas. By always being straightforward with you otherwise, I believe we've earned that trust.


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