Mark Stencel joins with RJI to spotlight trusted news sites, names new executive director

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism has reached an agreement to collaborate with the nonprofit JournalList Inc. to expand its automated system designed to elevate and monetize trusted news outlets and their official social media feeds.

Mark Stencel

As part of this new collaboration, the JounalList board and RJI appointed Mark Stencel of the Duke Reporters’ Lab to be the project’s new executive director. He is taking over JournalList from its founder, Scott Yates, who is running for a U.S. congressional seat in Colorado. 

Yates, an entrepreneur and former reporter, created JournalList’s trust.txt system to help validate news media sites and social media feeds by highlighting their affiliation with other prominent journalism and media organizations — from regional news chains and press associations to national media organizations and trade groups. All of this is done with a text file located on the site – for example:

As of today, 110 news companies and associations use JournalList’s small text snippets as a simple mechanism for search engines, social media platforms,app developers and programmatic ad buyers, to verify a news outlets’ institutional relationships and credentials. Stencel’s role at JournalList will be to increase the adoption of the trust.txt files across the digital media landscape.

Stencel previously held senior positions at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly and NPR. He will lead JournalList while continuing to serve as co-director of the Reporters’ Lab at Duke, where he teaches journalism and helps direct technology projects designed to increase the reach and impact of political fact-checking around the world. He also provides research and consulting services on news media integrity, innovation and operations through his company, Assignment: Future LLC.

Stencel serves on the advisory board of Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism in Macon, Georgia, and is a former board chair of the Student Press Law Center. 

“The JounralList model works by taking existing relationships of trust, and making them visible in a machine-readable file. The more of those relationships that are visible, the stronger the signal for the robots and algorithms that determine what people see and how marketers spend money on sites,” said Yates, adding: “Mark’s relationships in the journalism community and the collaboration with RJI will amplify those trust signals.”

“In real estate it’s location. In news, right now, it’s trust, trust, trust,” said Randy Picht, RJI’s executive director. “We’re enthusiastic about this collaboration and look forward to working with Mark and everyone at JournalList.”

Stencel said, “Scott and the board — including renowned trust expert Claire Wardle and standards expert and the former CTO of CableLabs, Ralph Brown — created an elegant and deceptively simple system that helps people find news they can trust. That’s  especially important now, when intentionally bogus digital services peddle dangerous misinformation disguised as news. Journalism organizations need to work together to make it easier for the public to find reliable information.”

About JournalList Inc. ( JournalList is the nonprofit manager of trust.txt — a standard for expressing relationships of trust in a machine-readable file that is decentralized and controlled by each individual publisher online. This digital framework makes it easy to build a trust.txt file that helps digital platforms and marketers clearly see a news site’s affiliations with other journalism organizations, media groups and industry associations.

About the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism ( The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) works with the news industry, professors, students and others to make sure journalism has a long and bright future. As a “think-and-do” tank that opened its doors in 2008, RJI uses its guaranteed funding to work exclusively to strengthen journalism in the service of democracy. It’s part of the Missouri School of Journalism.

Randy Picht, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute,

Mark Stencel, JournalList,