By Scott Yates, JournalList.net
The first time I got on a plane after COVID was from my home in Colorado to come to Texas for the TPA convention.
I did not know what to expect.
Luckily for me, the people in Texas were all great. Well, except for one Lyft driver who tried to tell me that vaccines don’t work.
I even came away with a T-shirt that I love!
And perhaps the most important thing I learned is that this idea I’ve been working on for a year now really will be catching on.
If it works for Texans, I figured, it will work everywhere.
And it really worked in Texas. Everyone I talked to was very positive about the idea.
If you weren’t at the convention, you may not yet be familiar with the idea, so here it is:
You know when you are using Word and you can either save a document as a Word file or as a text file? Well, the trust.txt file is just that, a text file.
In a trust.txt file, you can put that you are a member of the TPA, and then you post that on your site in the background, like this: https://haysfreepress.com/trust.txt
The TPA staff and board looked at this idea closely, approved it, and now has already built its own trust.txt file. You can see it here: https://www.texaspress.com/trust.txt
That file is really simple. It just has a list of all the members, and you can tell they are members because it says “member=” in front of each one. For the file from the Hays Free Press, it says that it belongs to the TPA with “belongto=” in front.
But now you are probably wondering: Why do this? Doesn’t seem like much hassle, but what’s the point of doing it anyway?
Being a member of the TPA is a signal of trust. But that signal is invisible to Google. Facebook, too. Programmatic advertising purchasers also have no idea that your publication is a member of the TPA.
With a text file in a uniform format, those big platforms will now have a tool showing them that you are a member of the TPA. In short, you’ll be speaking to them in a language that they understand.
Why doesn’t Google do this itself? Well, if Google invented it, would you trust it? I would not. And, Google wouldn’t share with Facebook, or anyone else. No, this is something we need to do on our own, as journalists.
You see, I was a journalist for a long time. And after that I was a startup founder. Now I’ve started JournalList.net, which is a member-owned nonprofit association, organized like a chamber of commerce. It does one thing and one thing only: manage the technical specification document, essentially the standard that governs trust.txt. You can and should join JournalList. For small publications, dues start at $36 a year.
With that, you’ll get help from us in making and posting your trust.txt file, and you’ll be listed in our trust.txt file, which will give you an additional signal of trust. And you’ll be a part of governing the future of the standard, if you want to. If you are happy just receiving the benefit and not being on any more committees, well, I certainly understand that.
So, thanks to Mike Hodges, the staff, the board, and everyone who was so welcoming to me, and so positive about the idea.
As local journalists, you are already doing so much for Texas. Just by doing that, you are also fighting the scourge of disinformation. Posting a trust.txt file is one small way to make sure you get the recognition you deserve.
Scott Yates is former journalist, startup founder, and now the executive director of JournalList.net. He lives in Denver with his family, his mutt, and his dictionary collection.