How Engagement Editors Can Restore Trust in the Media

Only 32% of American adults have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the mass media, according to a Gallup poll released in September. Gallup has been asking this question since 1972, and this was the lowest figure they have recorded.

What can be done, on the media side, to address this growing and historically high level of distrust? One answer: Invest in community and engagement editors. Mick Côté makes the case on this episode. He’s the engagement editor at the Montreal Gazette, Canada’s longest running daily newspaper, founded in 1778. Plus:

  • How reading the comments makes better editors
  • Why community can be a competitive advantage in an increasingly packed media landscape
  • Bringing urgency to community management

Big Quotes

“[Because they read the comments, our] editors are a lot more aware of what topics are really pertinent to our community. That helps us set out the assignment process. Because then we know that these people really care about this topic. … Knowing this, the editors are able to go in the story meetings and say, ‘Hey, all these people are talking about this one topic or this off-shoot of something that we wrote about, we should look into it.’ And so the whole commenting platform, for us, has been a huge blessing.” -@MickCote

“We’ve got reporters [and columnists] who have been with us for decades. They are adopting this social media and engagement thing on their own. … These people also go home and keep answering questions afterwards. But that’s because they truly care about the work. I am super lucky to be working with people who are adopting this type of engagement and this type of community management because I think, ultimately, it’s good for them but it’s also good for the state of journalism because it helps with credibility, with delivery – there’s just so much positive to it.” -@MickCote

“When people ask questions or send a message through our Facebook page, I want them to get a reply, even if it’s not something that I deal with. There’s people who send me a thing about ‘Oh, I didn’t receive my newspaper this morning.’ A lot of people would just say, ‘That’s not my job. I’m an editor, I don’t know your address, I don’t have access to all this stuff.’ But you’re also part of that whole system. You have to make it work, and you have to make it a place that people want to engage with. So, yeah, I’ll forward that message to the subscriptions department and make sure that they handle it. There’s a bit of customer service that goes with it. I think putting the reader first is hugely beneficial.” -@MickCote

“I have a problem with this traditional journalism view of we are providing the information to you and then our doors are largely locked, or you can’t speak to us unless you file a letter to the editor. It’s not about that anymore. It’s wide open. There’s all sorts of publications on the web now. How can we become or remain one of the most trusted? …  The way to do it is not by telling your audience to just eat this and then go share it for me and click on my website, please. The way is to engage and to be a person. People aren’t stupid, they know that there are people behind these accounts, they know we’re not robots, they know we read the comments. So, why not just be a part of the conversation?” -@MickCote

“There’s a huge part of engagement editing, in community management, that is traditional customer service. I used to work at Gap, and I feel like sometimes I’m still working at Gap.” -@MickCote

About Mick Côté

Mick Côté is a journalist with a passion for storytelling and a digital strategist with an obsession for engagement and audience growth. He has been managing communities since graduating from the masters of journalism program at the University of King’s College, with a focus in digital publishing and entrepreneurial journalism. He is currently the deputy executive producer for web at the Montreal Gazette.

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Thank you for listening to Community Signal.

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