Telum Talks To... Tammy Tam, Editor-in-Chief, South China Morning Post

Telum Talks To... Tammy Tam, Editor-in-Chief, South China Morning Post

The SCMP has become Asia’s first news organisation to join the Trust Project, a global effort to promote trustworthy journalism. Telum caught up with its Editor-in-Chief, Tammy Tam, to speak about the collaboration and her own work.

​​​​Could you tell us more about the partnership and the SCMP's role in the consortium as the first member of the Trust Project from Asia?
The SCMP is the first news organisation in Asia to join the Trust Project, a consortium of the world’s top media companies committed to the highest standards of journalistic quality, transparency and credibility. News sites approved by the Trust Project show what’s behind a news story, allowing readers to make informed decisions about what to read and share. The SCMP joined at the same time as 32 other new sites, who have all committed to the rigorous standards and disclosures of the Trust Project. The incoming news partners extend the Trust Indicators’ reach to more than 200 news sites and hundreds of millions of readers each month. We hope that more news organisations around the world will join us in promoting high standards of accountability and transparency in journalism.

What role do you think the SCMP can take on driving trustworthy news coverage in China with integrity?
The SCMP’s headquarters in Hong Kong grants us both proximity to mainland China and freedom of the press, so we’re able to produce trustworthy and comprehensive news coverage on China. To accomplish our mission to lead the global conversation on China, we recognise that our readers need to be able to rely on our journalistic integrity. 

We joined the Trust Project because we believe a commitment to transparency is foundational to journalistic excellence. The SCMP has implemented transparent newsroom policies that adhere to the consortium’s Trust Indicators, including policies on ethics, corrections, fact-checking and sourcing. These Trust Indicators aim to provide readers with insight into the methodology of the SCMP’s journalism as an authentic, reliable, and balanced news source. The trust indicators are simply making the ethics we’ve always held as a company clear to our readers. By implementing these international standards, we hope to inspire other news organisations across the region to adopt clear policies that bolster the freedom of the press.

How do you think PR practitioners should work with journalists in championing transparency, news accuracy and integrity as advocated by the Trust Project?
When public affairs professionals hold themselves to the same standards as journalists, they help prevent the spread of misleading information. PR professionals should share the same responsibility as journalists to cite their sources and fact-check their information. Public affairs professionals can also help promote high-quality journalism by sharing up-to-date and factual information that helps keep the public informed and ensures the spread of credible information. Everyone benefits when we act with transparency and integrity. 

The global coronavirus pandemic is affecting millions of people around the world, including many journalists who now have to work remotely. What has the SCMP done to keep journalists safe and continue business as usual during this extraordinary period?
The SCMP has continued to serve our readers despite the challenges that come with the coronavirus situation in Hong Kong. The editorial team implemented its plan for the newsroom to operate in split teams, and subsequently working from home, to maintain effective operations while reducing the chance of community spread. 

Thanks to our advanced digital infrastructure and culture of agility, our journalists are able to connect to work from anywhere with minimal impact on daily operations. Our digital-first mindset allowed the SCMP to operate efficiently and effectively during the outbreak without any major adjustments. Our teams strive at all times to report the latest accurately and fairly, so as to inform the public properly.

We have educated our journalists about adhering to safety measures while working while the coronavirus is a regular affair. The Post also supplied our teams with the necessary equipment, ensuring that our people were well-equipped while working on the job. It is also important that we are also encouraging our staff to maintain physical and mental health discipline. 

What has the SCMP been doing in guarding against fake news with technology to help readers make properly informed choices?
We believe the most effective way to combat fake news is to produce journalism that adheres to high standards of accuracy and our participation in the Trust Project aims to demonstrate to our readers how we’ve done so with integrity. The Trust Project Indicators we’ve implemented underline our commitment to the rigours that come with quality, trustworthy journalism, and they work hand-in-hand with technology platforms to affirm and amplify journalism’s commitment to transparency, accuracy, inclusion, and fairness so that the public can make informed news choices. This is how we’re being accountable to help readers by focusing on reading and sharing news with integrity behind it, so we can lessen the power of misinformation and stop its spread.

Especially during this global coronavirus pandemic, the world needs swift and objective coverage from credible news sources. Now more than ever, readers across the world need to have a comprehensive and informed point of view on the news. The SCMP has a front-row seat to how the situation is evolving in China, and we have been dedicated to covering the issues, impact, and implications of the coronavirus outbreak to educate and inform our global readers. We believe that transparent, clear, educational coverage can prevent panic and the spread of misinformation. 

As the top editor of the SCMP, what are your tips to media professionals on developing a sustainable relationship with senior journalists like yourself?
Building a sustainable relationship needs to be based on a foundation of mutual trust and understanding, so it is important to be honest when sharing or exchanging information. Be as informative and comprehensive as possible when communicating with media professionals. Develop a concise pitch that is newsworthy and get to the point as quickly as possible. Be authentic and above all make sure the details you’re providing are reliable and trustworthy. It is important that the information you are providing is relevant to the journalist you’re contacting, and demonstrate how it aligns with their editorial priorities.  


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