ONO Newsletter December 2021

Welcome to our final newsletter for 2021, full of holiday optimism and festive good cheer.

As we all advise our newsrooms on how to pronounce ‘Omicron’ and remind them of the importance of accurate, fact-based reporting with lots of context, here’s hoping 2022 brings something a little better for us all.

In the meantime, the journalistic world keeps turning and there are still a few things to reflect on and talk about. So here goes…


A fascinating report from the Reuters Institute was released this month, looking closely at the various measures news organizations are taking to build and retain trust.

Depth and Breadth: How News Organisations Navigate Trade-Offs Around Building Trust in News” presents and analyses the outcome from a series of round table discussions held with senior news executives from around the world.

It is worth a close read, but one of the broad initial findings is that many newsrooms focus on building trust with their own dedicated audience rather than with the broader community, and this has implications for the wider issue of community trust in the media as a whole.

The report canvasses the growing polarisation of news, the impact of the major social media platforms and government hostility, and the value of delivering quality content with a focus on accuracy and impartiality.

On page 18 of the report, there is a particularly interesting discussion about introducing greater transparency about how journalism is done, while on page 19 there are arrange of communication and community-building steps discussed.

All in all it’s an important report and well worth a read, but the role of ombudsmen and good complaints handling processes are perhaps not given the attention they warrant.


For those who may have missed it, ONO Board Member Ignaz Staub has passed on this extraordinary recent article about Stephen Glass, the disgraced former New Republic journalist who was fired for making up key details in his stories. A fascinating piece about what came next.


An interesting piece crossed our desks this week on the rise of community-based journalism around the world.

With so many small and regional newspapers and news outlets closing down in recent years, some members of the community have taken matters into their own hands and started up their own local news and information sites, many of them using Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms. It raises some interesting issues, not only about how they can be funded and sustained, but how to ensure they remain driven by traditional editorial standards..,

  • In her latest newsletter, NPR Public Editor Kelly McBride discusses the challenges of covering the “Oh My God” covid variant.
  • ONO Board member George Claassen also weighed into the issue of covid coverage, and how it has highlighted the need for good standards in science reporting.
  • In Australia, the major public broadcaster (ABC) is reviewing its complaints handling processes, and has released an information paper which provides a useful summary of differing models and approaches around the world. ONO Member and ABC Editorial Director Craig McMurtrie earlier provided this summary of the ABC’s approach to editorial complaints.
  • In the Netherlands, our member Sjoerd de Jong took the opportunity (courtesy of covid) to spend some time binge-listening to his organization’s podcasts, looking for signs of optimism for the future. The good news is that he found plenty.
  • Meanwhile, ONO President Margo Smit found no shortage of members of the public wanting to know why the news was always so depressing.
  • Finally, from the Czech Republic, ONO Member Milan Pokorny deals with the tricky issue of how and why interviews are edited.

Your membership renewal fees are coming in for 2022 (thanks to all those who have already paid) and we are already starting to think of topics for our first shop talks in the new year.

As ever, if you have ideas or suggestions please pass them on to ONO Executive Director Alan Sunderland via email at newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com

We continue to monitor international travel restrictions with a view to a possible ONO conference for the second half of 2022, and we will also be on the hunt for a new board member following the departure of A.S Panneerselvan this year to a new job. We are particularly interested in someone from a part of the world not already represented among our existing board members (who are currently drawn from the US, UK, Canada, Sth Africa, Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Estonia and Australia) and we are also mindful that we have only two female board members out of the 12. So if you are interested, please do let us know before we start tapping people on the shoulder!

In the meantime, we wish all our members a happy, healthy and peaceful festive season.

Margo Smit                                                                                                            Alan Sunderland ONO President                                                                                                ONO Executive Director
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