Adriana Gallardo: “Building Trust: On Sources and Skepticism”

Adriana Gallardo joined ProPublica as an engagement reporter in 2016. She has been a collaborator in several investigations covering sexual violence, immigration and women’s health. Her community-based reporting has earned her several awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2020 for “Lawless,” a project on sexual violence in Alaska.

Adriana Gallardo, Engagement Reporter at ProPublica © Théophile-Aubriot

By Karine PFENNIGER and Guillaume CAIRE

  • Building trust with people can be performed by engaging them into the reporting process.
  • Adriana Gallardo’s team at ProPublica think about long-term engagement — “about the people that are living in the story before thinking of the story.”
  • Trust with sources can be built “by letting them define which stories need to be told.”

Award-winning journalist Adriana Gallardo spoke about how her ProPublica team builds trust with sources at the 2021 NPDJ conference. She shared a few examples of how she established a trusting relationship with sources while reporting on topics such as sexual assault, women’s health and the pandemic. At the end of the day, trust is a relationship,” she said. 

When reporting brought ProPublica to the conclusion that Black people were the first to be killed during the pandemic, Gallardo said that it was important for her team to focus on the people behind the stories, rather than numbers. While her team spoke with mourning families, they decided to “approach these people as if the universe had just betrayed them,” she said, and “ask them about who the [deceased] person was, what made the person special.”


Engagement and trust are important at ProPublica, where stories are envisioned in a long-term perspective. ProPublica’s engagement team thinks, “about the people that are living in the story before the story,” Gallardo said. 

One way of building trust is to let people “define the stories that needed to be told,” Gallardo said. Her team has also engaged with sources through building a collaborative framework with them and letting them decide how to be photographed. 

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