ONO Newsletter December 2019

The 2020 ONO Conference

MAY 17TH – MAY 20th 2020


****The DATES and LOCATION are still not 100% locked in, so we are still advising people to hold off on making firm airline or accommodation bookings for now.

But we are working hard to finalise a few outstanding matters and rest assured we will be back in touch as soon as we can officially fire the starting gun.

In the meantime, if you have particular issues you think we should be discussing or panels or speakers to recommend, now is a great time to float those ideas with us.

You can contact ONO with ideas at suggestions at newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com

Diversity in newsrooms

This is a hot button issue for many news organizations, both in terms of the diversity among their own journalists and also the diversity in the news sources they rely on.

ONO is very interested to hear about any innovative approaches being taken by members and their organizations to explore this important area.

In the meantime, here are two interesting examples.

In the USA, NPR Public Editor Elizabeth Jensen has investigated the latest data on the diversity of news sources used by her organization, and found that much more needs to be done: https://www.npr.org/sections/publiceditor/2019/12/17/787959805/new-on-air-source-diversity-data-for-npr-shows-much-work-ahead

In Australia, the issue has proved to be much more contentious. The ABC, one of Australia’s two public broadcasters, has long had a detailed plan to improve diversity and inclusion. The other public broadcaster, SBS, has long been active in this area, and launched a diversity education program to promote more inclusive workplaces. But when the ABC recently ran a voluntary survey of its own staff to measure diversity in the workplace, the reaction in some quarters was outrage and it was seen as an exercise in identity politics.

New Members

It has been a busy and successful year for ONO and we have welcomed several new members to the organization since our New York Conference in June.

Let’s give a big welcome to:

  • Pippa Green, the South African Press Ombudsman
  • Craig McMurtrie, the Editorial Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Ricardo Sandoval-Palos, Public Editor, PBS
  • Steven Springer, Editor, News Standards & Best Practice, Voice of America
  • Peter Deurmann Petersen, Legal Director, Aller Media, Denmark

Member Profile: KATHY ENGLISH

Tell us about yourself. What is your current role and how long have you been in

the position? What are your chief duties/responsibilities?

I have been public editor of the Toronto Star since 2007. In 2018, the role was expanded to oversee editorial standards for all of Torstar’s daily and weekly news organizations.

This role has existed at “Canada’s largest newspaper” since 1972 when it was launched as the news ombudsman role. Despite all the changes in the media, the work remains largely the same- to be the “guarantor” of accuracy and ethical journalism for the Star’s many readers. My office does corrections on all platforms (about 1,200 annually), upholds the Torstar Journalistic Standards Guide and communicates with readers about their concerns and complaints. In any given month, we hear from more than 1,000 readers. I also write a column that seeks to explain the Star’s journalism and journalistic issues to our readers: https://www.thestar.com/authors.english_kathy.html

What was your career/background prior to taking up your current role? 

I got my start in newspaper journalism in 1976, beginning as a “copygirl” in my hometown newspaper. Since then I have worked for six Canadian daily newspapers and launched websites for two Canadian media companies – back in the day when we called digital journalism “new media.”

I left daily journalism in 1989 to teach at Ryerson School of Journalism and was a faculty member there for a decade, taking a sabbatical year to do a Masters degree that examined the demise of family ownership of Canadian newspapers.

In 1999, I gave up a tenured faculty position to accept a “new media” role. I still love to teach – love the passion and energy of students – and currently work as an adjunct instructor at Ryerson, teaching a course on “Critical Issues in Journalism.” In 2018, I received a fellowship to teach at Western University and devised a graduate course on digital media literacy.

What are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities faced by your organisation/the media in general in your country?

The broken business model is a challenge for the Star and most other Canadian media organizations, with traditional advertising revenue having dropped significantly and digital ad revenue or subscriber revenue still a challenge. This has resulted in many “buyouts” of experienced staff and layoff notices for bright young journalists.

The decline in public trust in journalism is a challenge for all of us. The Star has sought to be proactive here, launching a newsroom “trust initiative” and joining “The Trust Project” to embed “indicators of trust” into digital content. I have co-led the trust project initiative and believe strongly in its underlying premise that news organizations must be transparent and accountable to their audiences.

For me, as public editor, the challenge over the past 12 years as the Star has become a digital news organization, has been to understand how traditional journalistic standards translate to new platforms. I have overseen the updating of the standards guide twice since 2007 and worked specifically on policies and procedures regarding “unpublishing” (content removal requests), online corrections and social media.

Feel free to share any of the most significant or challenging issues you have had to deal with recently in your role.

Here are three columns that show some of the challenging issues I have dealt with:

Is there any question or comment you would like to make to the ONO membership generally as part of this profile? Something you would like advice or input on?

I have always valued the input of ONO members and do not hesitate to send a vexing question to the group. The expertise of this group is phenomenal.

In 2020, I will be seeking considerable input from ONO members as I begin a fellowship at the Reuters Institute for Journalism at Oxford University. My research project is focussed on the role of public editors/news ombudsman in ensuring trustworthy journalism and showing audiences what is trustworthy in a time of misinformation and disinformation. I will be asking all our members to share details of their roles and how their work contributes to the news organization’s transparency and trustworthiness and to the news literacy of their audiences.

My working thesis is that much of the current discussion about the imperative for trustworthy journalism and news organization transparency in explaining journalism to audiences underscores the work that news ombudsman and public editors have been doing since the role began in newsrooms. I hope all of you will contribute to my survey that I will distribute early in 2020.

Ombudsmen decisions and other news

Each month, we draw attention to recent decisions, comments and articles by ONO members and other ombudsmen/public editors/complaints handlers that may be of interest, as well as other general news about media ethics.

We are always on the lookout for new material, so if you have recently published something (in any language) you would like to share or if you have seen something of interest, please let us know via email to newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com and we will include it in our next newsletter.


ONO would like to wish all of its members Season’s Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays and, if we are prepared to look ahead to April, a Holy and Peaceful Ramadan.

However, as ombudsmen and reader’s/public/standards editors, we also know this season coincides with the traditional outbreak of the “War on Christmas” and the usual allegations that political correctness is destroying once great traditions.

So here are my favourite current examples. Some of you may even be responding to complaints on this very issue. Enjoy!

Bjarne Schilling                                                                                   Alan Sunderland

ONO President                                                                           ONO Executive Director

Bjarne.Schilling@pol.dk                                                newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com

Comments are closed.