ONO Newsletter August 2021


Ricardo Sandoval-Palos, Public Editor for the Public Broadcasting Service in the US, has agreed to join us to talk about his recent article entitled “Fake Hate”.

Ricardo, an ONO member, explores the difference between genuine complaints and manufactured outrage. This is an issue that I am sure many of us have to deal with, often driven by social media campaigning and sometimes involving people who complain about news content they haven’t even seen. 

As ever, we look forward to as many members as possible joining us for this discussion, and please keep those ideas for future shop talks coming – we are keen to ensure they are as relevant and timely as possible.


ONO Board Member Elisabeth Ribbans, who is the Global Readers’ Editor for the Guardian and Observer, has taken over as ONO’s Treasurer following the appointment of Margo Smit as our new President.

Elisabeth has been a member of ONO since taking over from Paul Chadwick as Global Readers’ Editor in January 2020. She joined the ONO Board in June.

Elisabeth will work with ONO’s long-standing book-keeper Elaine Carlton to ensure our finances are in order, and to handle membership renewals.

With our new leadership team in place, here’s a message to all members from ONO President Margo Smit, Vice-President Jack Nagler and Treasurer Elisabeth Ribbans:

Maybe you are coming out of a (hopefully relaxing) summer holiday, a spell of winter, weeks of Olympic coverage (and complaints about sports overload…) or another lockdown. Whatever your circumstances may be, we hope this newsletter finds you healthy and in good spirit. And as we all pick up speed again, this is a good moment to introduce ourselves as your new ONO President, Vice-President and Treasurer.

We are honoured to take over from Bjarne Schilling and Sally Begbie, who have guided ONO through the last two challenging years. While a pandemic prevented us from meeting in person, together with exec-director Alan Sunderland, Schilling and Begbie ensured that ONO kept and even grew its value for its members around the world. Through newsletters and highly successful virtual shop talks, ONO members could stay informed and inspired by what their colleagues elsewhere were working on.

We say ‘thank you’ as we happily take up the challenge of once again exploring possibilities for in-person meetings (but don’t worry: we’ll keep the virtual shop talks!), increasing the exchange of useful and thought-provoking information, ideas and developments, reaching out to new colleagues and propagating the role of ombudsmen and standards and public editors in maintaining the public’s trust in news media.

Please share your ideas on all of this, including your dilemmas and your challenges. We will share ours with you.

And we hope to be able to say ‘see you all’ again soon!

Margo Smit (President), Jack Nagler (Vice-President), Elisabeth Ribbans (Treasurer



Panneer at the 2018 Conference in Amsterdam: photo by Sally Begbie

Congratulations are in order for A.S. Panneerselvan, who is leaving the Hindu newspaper in India at the end of September after nine years as Readers’ Editor to take on an important new role as Senior Fellow of Research at Roja Muthiah Research Library in Chennai.

The Library, founded in 1994, houses one of the world’s finest libraries of Tamil publications, and provides research materials and facilities for scholars of Tamil studies in a variety of fields spanning humanities, social science and the sciences.

Panneer has been a huge contributor to the ONO Board for many years, and organized and hosted our 2017 Conference in Chennai.

He is a hugely experienced and highly respected journalist around the world, with almost four decades of experience. He has wide experience in print and television journalism, and has been (among other things) a journalism educator and lecturer, the head of a regional media development organization, an editorial advisor, a Reuters Fellow and an advisor to the Ethical Journalism Network.

His departure from the ONO Board will leave very big shoes to fill, but the good news is that Panneer is planning to stay on as an Associate Member of ONO, so we will continue to benefit from his input and advice.


Now that it is clear we will be unable to hold a proper face-to-face conference for the second year running (2020 and 2021) as a result of the impact of Covid-19, the ONO Board is turning its attention to whether there will be an opportunity to plan one for 2022.

Of course, it is still early days and for many people it may well be too difficult to know whether they would be in a position to travel next year if a conference were to be organized.

However, to assist in our thinking, we have organised a very short survey of members to test people’s thoughts. It is only four questions and will take just a moment to complete, so I would ask as many of you as possible to click on the link below and fill out the survey…



I feel sure that every one of us has struggled to define the boundaries between the professional ethical obligations of journalists and their public comments, actions and behaviours.

In the US, National Public Radio has recently stepped into this difficult area by updating its ethics policy on the rules around its journalists participating in public rallies, marches and public events.

Formerly, like many other news organizations, NPR had a blanket ban on journalist attending such events, and warned about journalists ‘advocating’ on any controversial or polarizing issues.

The revised policy seeks to take a more nuanced view. It continues to warn journalists against participating in any event they are covering, and also rules out protesting for political or legislative outcomes. But more general public support for basic human values is allowable on a case by case basis.

Here, ONO member and NPR Public Editor Kelly McBride explains the changes: https://www.npr.org/sections/publiceditor/2021/07/29/1021802098/new-npr-ethics-policy-its-ok-for-journalists-to-demonstrate-sometimes


  • The war in Afghanistan has loomed large for many ONO members as a source of editorial complaints and comment. Here, NPO Ombudsman Sjoerd de Jong reflects on his own newspaper’s coverage.
  • How do program makers navigate the line between checking factual errors and other matters with those they are covering, without allowing them inappropriate editorial control? Margo Smit explores this issue in relation to a recent documentary in the Netherlands.
  • Coverage of coronavirus and vaccinations is big news everywhere. Ombudsman of Czech Radio Milan Pokorny deals with audience complaints over coverage of this vital issue.
  • A fascinating take on when a reporter’s personal experiences might constitute a form of bias: https://www.salon.com/2021/08/10/felicia-somnez-washington-post-lawsuit-discrimination/
Margo Smit                                                                                                            Alan Sunderland
ONO President                                                                                ONO Executive Director

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