ONO Newsletter December 2020


Wednesday January 13th 2021, 1200 UTC

Professional Ethics, Public Actions

Mark it in your diaries, and please join us on the day for this important discussion about the interaction between the ethics of journalists (and their commitment to fair and impartial reporting) and the growing desire to express their own opinions in public forums, whether it be social media, attending marches, demonstrations and protests or any other form of external activity.

The BBC has recently been involved in considering these questions in relation to situations such as taking part in a Pride march or in a Black Lives Matter-demonstration.

The result was the release of new official guidance on impartiality, which you can find here: https://www.bbc.com/editorialguidelines/guidance/impartiality

It led to a passionate and widespread public debate in the UK. Here are some examples of that:

It is an issue that we feel many members will have experienced in one way or another, and there seem to be a range of views on what is appropriate, including differences in views between younger and older journalists.

ONO Board Member and BBC Director, Editorial Policies and Standards David Jordan will kick off our discussion by explaining the background of the new guidance and some of the key editorial challenges at the heart of them.

We will then be keen to open up the conversation for as many members as possible to join in the discussion and share their own experiences and perspectives.

To that end, if you have some specific issues you wish to raise, please do let Executive Director Alan Sunderland know in advance by emailing him at newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com and he take note, to ensure you are called on during the shop talk.

Look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the day.


In our last newsletter, we drew your attention to a new workflow automation tool that provides a simple and effective way for newsrooms to handle corrections management and reader feedback.

It is called Vett News, and the website includes a short video explaining how the code works.

It is initially being rolled out free of charge to all college newspapers and a group of professional newspapers in the US as part of the trial period. When it is ready for wider distribution, it will be a commercial product for sale.

The team behind it is led by Associate Professor Paul Glader, the Chair of the Program in Journalism, Culture and Society and Director of the McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute at King’s College in New York.

Professor Glader contacted ONO recently to update us on the progress of the new tool. He tells us that in the US, the Society of Professional Journalists and Trusting News  are listing the tool in their resource guides and aiming to make it required for college newspapers that want to gain a certification of trust.

Professor is very keen to hear from any ONO members who would like to find out more about the tool, see how it works and provide feedback. He can be contacted at Paul@VettNews.com


As we mentioned in our last newsletter, the Executive Director of ONO, Alan Sunderland, was commissioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation to prepare a research paper on the theory and practice behind establishing an ombudsman role and/or other forms of self-regulation for the media.

It is part of a project the OSCE is currently undertaking to encourage self-regulation in the Ukrainian media, based on established independent journalism standards.

Earlier this month, Alan participated in the formal launch of the report (via Zoom) at an event that brought together prominent Ukrainian media editors, local experts, media lawyers and the Chair of the Ukrainian Commission on Journalism Ethics.

You will find Alan’s contribution at about the 1 hour 5 minute mark of the video above, but there appears to be no English translation. Ukrainian speakers are welcome to view!

More importantly, the launch means that the report itself is now able to be shared freely with others outside ONO, so feel free to pass it on or refer to it as you wish.

It can be found in the members only section of our website (just a reminder that the password for entry to this section of the website is currently TRUST2020).

You can find the relevant page here.


Every now and then, ONO is contacted by people and organizations around the world, asking for our help on a range of issues.

As a volunteer-run membership organization, there is often little we can do to assist, but from time to time we are happy to pass on certain requests that may be of interest to our members.

In that spirit, we are happy to pass on this impassioned request that arrived in our mailbox this month from a struggling English-language newspaper in Afghanistan.

“I’m Mansoor Faizy, Editor-in-Chief of Afghanistan Times, a leading English-language newspaper based in Kabul.

Since we printed our 1st copy in 2006, we have passionately met, without missing a single day, our commitment to report on our country’s battled affairs impartially, professionally and ethically. That’s why we are today a beacon of freedom of speech and news media independence in Afghanistan.

We have received a number of achievements in this period. We worked hard to report about politics, security, health, human rights, especially women and child rights, showbiz, sports and other social affairs. This was not an easy journey and it will not be in the future. Our paper is today in 12 pages (four in color) 

But as you can imagine, it has been all but easy, given the extreme level of insecurity and systemic constraints prevalent in Afghanistan.

To the overwhelming layers of challenges presented in our country, we have to add the impact of the global covid-19 pandemic, in particular its devastating consequences in our newspaper’s finances.     

We are quickly approaching breaking point, as we have lost over 70% of our income – mainly advertising, as we have not received any financial assistance since 2009 to maintain our editorial independence.

To avoid the worst from happening, we need $1,500 US monthly for at least 2021 so we don’t have to lay off our five reporters and The Afghanistan Times can keep on shedding light on this turbulent times in the country, as you know, home of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in the midst of a juncture that will mark the fate of its people for generations to come.      

Many thanks,

Mansoor Faizy


Afghanistan Times

Email: mansoorfaizy01@gmail.com

ONO is not in a position to endorse or financially support this request, but please feel free to pass it on to any others in your organization or elsewhere that you think may be interested in finding out more or assisting in any way.


ONO has lost another respected and much loved colleague. Janne Andersson, a former ONO member and the Ombudsman for many years at Sweden’s TV4, has died.

Many of our longer serving members will remember Janne from 2008, when the ONO Conference was held in Stockholm and, according to ONO Vice President Sally Begbie, “Janne joyously led many rounds of singing on the ONO boat, as we sailed around the islands off Stockholm. It was a wonderful and happy evening largely due to Janne’s generous and melodic spirit.”

There is a tribute from his former colleagues at TV4 here  and another here (both in Swedish, with only “Google Translate” versions available in other languages).

ONO President Bjarne Schilling has sent his condolences and flowers on behalf of our organization.


Jerusalem Press Club Director General Uri Dromi has contacted ONO to let us know that the Club has launched a new online series called “Journalism is Alive and Kicking”, a series of interviews with leading journalists  about the trends and challenges in modern journalism.

There have been four episodes so far, featuring Pulitzer Prize winner and prominent NYT columnist Thomas Friedman, BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen, Swedish journalist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein and the Publisher-Editor of Die Zeit, Dr Josef Joffe.

You can watch the series here.


As this is our last newsletter for the year, it’s time for some seasonal cheer.

2020 may have been a difficult and challenging year, but December still brings out the usual high standard of Christmas journalism.

Here are some of our favourites to leave you with, and we look forward to a busy and much-improved 2021.

  • In New York, a sad and bedraggled Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is being seen as a metaphor for 2020.
  • A reminder that one of the most popular Christmas romantic movies in recent years on Netflix features an ethically dubious journalist as its star.
  • With more Christmas puns than you can shake a candy-cane stick at, The Guardian discusses whether Santa can survive a new era of social distancing.
  • If you’re quick, you can place a bid on what is claimed to be the world’s first Christmas card, from 1843, if you don’t mind a touch of scandal.
  • Is it really true that Belgians can invite people to their homes this Christmas, but only one of them can use the bathroom?

Merry Christmas,  Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzah, Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays to all…

Bjarne Schilling                                                                                 Alan Sunderland ONO President                                                                       ONO Executive Director
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