ONO Newsletter February 2021


1200 UTC

(0800 NY, Toronto; 1300 Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Zurich, 1400 Tel Aviv, Cape Town, Tallinn; 1730 Chennai; 2100 Tokyo; 2300 Sydney)

“Invisible Man” by isarisariver is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Requests to remove online stories are a growing reality for most news organizations in this digital age.

Quite apart from the laws that exist in many parts of the world in relation to the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’, more and more people are approaching media organizations with requests to remove or edit stories about them that they find embarrassing, damaging to their reputation or offensive in other ways.

Sometimes these requests are made because stories are inaccurate or out-of-date, but often it is simply because people don’t want these stories showing up in Google stories and influencing the way people think about them.

This trend has become a challenge for all news organizations, and many of them have developed editorial policies to manage the requests. Here are some examples from the BBC, YLE in Finland and the ABC in Australia,

There are also plenty of companies that promise to help both individuals and organizations to ‘tidy up’ their online image and have damaging content removed or hidden.

The ONO Board felt this was an area of great interest to many of our members, and we are keen to have a discussion on how we all handle it.

I am pleased to let you know that we will be joined for this virtual shop talk by Deborah Dwyer, a US journalist and academic who is currently leading a project examining this whole area. She is very keen to explain the latest thinking in this area, and she is also keen to hear from as many of you as possible on your own views and practices, as this will help inform her work.

So please mark this date in your diary and join us for a discussion on this important issue.


This is one of the most challenging and important parts of investigative journalism – protecting and managing sources and whistle-blowers who approach journalists with confidential information , often at great personal risk.

One of the biggest investigative stories of our time was The Pentagon Papers, a 1971 exclusive front page scoop by the New York Times, featuring controversial and revealing documents about the Vietnam War, leaked by Daniel Ellsberg.

Now, following the death of the reporter who broke the story, the New York Times has published new details of the story came about, and these new details have renewed the debate over what level of honesty, trust and protection journalists owe to their sources.

The Dean Emeritus of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, writer, journalist, ethicist and long-time member and supporter of ONO, Edward Wasserman, has written a detail article examining the uncomfortable questions thrown up by the latest information.

It is a fascinating and confronting read for all of us working in the area of media ethics, and you can read it here. https://www.motherjones.com/media/2021/02/consider-the-source/


One of the things that is of most benefit to our industry is the work done by journalism academics in researching and reporting on the state of journalism today.

Their work is important, but even more important is the input and advice they receive from working journalists in newsrooms around the world. The better the data they receive, the better the work they produce.

To support that effort, ONO often includes items in its newsletter where we call out to ONO members to provide information and opinions to important academic projects. This is the latest one we are pleased to share, and to encourage our members to engage and respond:

Dr Michael Koliska from Georgetown University has a simple but very important topic he is currently researching: Have news organizations become more transparent over the past six years?

There is no doubt that trust in journalism is a vital commodity, and improving transparency about editorial standards and accountability is an important part of building trust. So are we getting better at it, and is becoming more transparent a part of that?

Dr Kolinska is interested in hard data, in examples of greater accountability, and in any thoughts and observations you might have on the issue.

He can be contacted at Michael.Koliska@georgetown.edu and I would encourage as many of you as possible to get in touch with him.


  • Given our recent discussions about impartiality and objectivity, this recent piece about the retiring Executive Editor of the Washington Post, Marty Baron, contains some excellent thoughts about the true nature of objectivity. Definitely worth a read.
  • As part of the self-reflection and analysis in American media following the Trump era, this piece from respected journalism academic and thinker Victor Pickard explores the “Fairness Doctrine”, a long since abandoned law in the US designed to set some minimum ethical standards in news coverage.
  • Worth reading this fascinating item from Neiman Lab which suggests that publishing and then debunking fake news can be more effective than ‘prebunking’, or qualifying a piece before it runs. ONO Board Member A.S. Panneerselvan has explored similar ground in this article.
  • Been struggling with how to cover controversial Covid treatments like hydroxychloroquine? This review from CBC Ombudsman and ONO Board Member Jack Nagler might help.


Just a reminder that, at the end of February, the PASSWORD for the ONO website (which gives you access to the members-only section of the site, to past editions of the newsletters and to recordings of shop talks, etc…) will be changed.

The new password will be emailed to all members who are currently financial, so if you haven’t yet paid your dues for 2021 (at the special temporary reduced rate) please do so, and contact me at newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com if you have any problems or any questions.

Bjarne Schilling                                                                                                            Alan Sunderland ONO President                                                                                                ONO Executive Director
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