Dallas Morning News Adds Public Editor ‘To Reinforce Reader Trust’

Duke University professor Stephen Buckley, who has an extensive background as an editor and reporter, will begin his role with an introductory column appearing in The Dallas Morning News and online on Sunday, May 12.

DallasNews Corp. and The Dallas Morning News have announced what they called “a bold initiative” to give subscribers and readers enhanced insight into the newspaper’s journalism.

Duke University professor Stephen Buckley, who has an extensive background as an editor and reporter, has assumed the public editor position at The News, filling a pivotal role to help connect readers and the newsroom and explain certain editorial decisions. Buckley will work outside the newsroom’s organizational structure and report directly to Grant Moise, The News’ publisher and CEO of its parent company.

“The News is no longer content to play defense with the issue of reader trust and assurance,” Moise said in a statement. “We have a 140-year legacy of exceptional journalism and seek to continue that with more transparency in our decisions. We want to be seen as a leader in public trust and double down on our efforts to be transparent with our readers.”

In a related move, The News said it is introducing “Why This Story Matters,” a brief feature accompanying its enterprise journalism. It said that “Why This Story Matters” provides context on why stories were chosen, reported, and published.

The newspaper said the moves are designed to expand trust and confidence in The News’ journalistic offerings and bolster the paper’s commitment to transparency and its mission to deliver accurate and impactful news coverage for North Texas.

The News said it already offers a monthly “Inside the Newsroom” email newsletter from Executive Editor Katrice Hardy that provides insights into the newsroom’s decision-making and introduces readers to the newsroom’s staff.

The newspaper cited a 2023 Gallup poll that shows the public’s recent confidence in the United States mass media matches a record low. Only 32% of those surveyed trust mass media “a great deal” or “a fair amount,” with 39% indicating they have “none at all,” The News said.

Answering the ‘why’ behind the story

As public editor, the newspaper said Buckley will seek to answer the “why” behind The News’ handling of a story or an issue using his expertise and experience.

The News said Buckley will be an observer and advocate while informing readers how the newspaper reported controversial topics and issues as they arise. Through interacting with readers and a regular column, he aims to offer an independent viewpoint to provide readers with a clear understanding and to hold The News accountable to high standards. 

“The Dallas Morning News has taken a bold step in adding this position, a unique move among major daily newspapers,” Buckley said in a statement. “In this business, accountability and truth are paramount. And ultimately, the benefits of high-quality journalism extend to all North Texas and beyond.”

With a 35-year domestic and international journalism career, Buckley is the former dean of the Poynter Institute, a world-renowned school for journalists in Florida. He serves as a professor of the practice of journalism and public policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke, where he received his undergraduate degree.

The News said that Buckley’s introductory column will appear in The Dallas Morning News and online on Sunday, May 12.

Starting immediately, The News said it will supplement many of its articles with a brief, descriptive note to engender more trust with readers and the community. Those synopses will appear on all election-related and enterprise pieces — the newsroom’s explanatory and most ambitious, distinctive journalism, the newspaper said.

“This is our chance to talk directly to the reader about why a decision was made to publish a particular story,” Hardy said. “It offers our readers more perspective about our news judgment — especially as we head into the busy local, state and national election cycles. And our audience has indicated this is something they want.”

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