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ACS News

C&EN publishes its standards and practices

by Bibiana Campos-Seijo
April 30, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 15


According to a 2021 Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism survey, just 29% of people in the US trust the news. That means that, among the 46 areas included in the study, the US ranks last.

And while most countries saw some improvement in their trust ranking from 2020, the US’s score remained flat.

Some people may blame the low trust on political polarization in the US and other countries. Interestingly, 66% of respondents across all 46 markets stated that they think news outlets should try to be neutral on every issue. And 74% said news organizations should reflect a variety of views.

Amid this trust crisis, it’s more important than ever that news outlets develop strategies to improve the situation. C&EN is no different. It is important to us that American Chemical Society members and potential members trust our news and information products.

One of the initiatives that C&EN has pursued in this regard is the result of the participation of Senior Editor Corinna Wu, chair of C&EN’s Ethics Committee, in the Trust 101 course offered by Trusting News in 2021.

Trusting News is a research and training project run jointly by the American Press Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute to empower journalists to “demonstrate credibility and earn trust.”

One way for C&EN to earn trust is by describing for our audience the mission, values, and processes that guide us. Such transparency builds credibility, and credibility engenders trust. To that end, the C&EN team built a Standards and Practices document, which you can find at In addition to processes, the document outlines our coverage goals and our ethics and describes how we maintain our editorial independence.

I invite you to read it and learn about, for example, how we handle confidential sources, how we evaluate images and illustrations to go with our stories, what we consider when issuing corrections, how we fact-check stories, and more.

C&EN is not alone in such efforts. Large and small independent news organizations, such as NPR, National Public Radio in the US, are pursuing similar initiatives.

Clearly we believe that this kind of transparency is the right thing to do for readers. It is also becoming a business imperative for the sustainability of news media. Search engines like Google, which is how most readers find C&EN, have begun to prioritize trust in search results: “Our systems are designed to identify signals that can help determine which pages demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness on a given topic,” according to the Google Search page “How Search Algorithms Work.”

Consequently, Google now elevates news from outlets that provide information such as the following:

clear labeling that indicates article type, such as news, opinion, and sponsored content

the organization’s mission statement

editorial policies and standards

information and biographies for editorial and business staff

disclosures relating to ownership and funding sources

C&EN is committed to transparency, and trust is core to our work. So while Trusting News and the changes to Google’s algorithms gave us the impetus to publish the Standards and Practices page, we believe it’s critical that we provide this information to you, our audience. Our values command that we do the right thing and put our audiences first.

I’d like to thank all the staff involved in this undertaking, in particular those on C&EN’s Ethics Committee, for overseeing the project.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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