ONO Newsletter January 2022

Welcome to a new year!

As I write this, I am enjoying some quiet, peaceful and uncontroversial holiday time here in Sydney, Australia, watching our ever-vigilant Government tie itself up in knots trying to work out whether the world’s best tennis player, Novak Djokovic, is allowed into the country or not.

Given that we have tens of thousands of new Omicron cases every day (our highest levels since the pandemic began), it does seem a little bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. But politics, health and sport are a heady mix at the best of times, and when you add in Australia’s notoriously strong border restrictions, it becomes one for the law courts instead of the tennis courts.

Meanwhile, the world keeps turning, and so there is plenty of interest for ONO members…


“An indispensable institution for journalistic transparency and reflection”

After an impressive 11 years in the role, Sjoerd De Jong is moving on as Ombudsman for Dutch evening newspaper and digital news site NRC Handelsblad.

Sjoerd has made a huge contribution over many years to ONO’s discussions, deliberations and conferences. His experience, insight and common sense enlivened many a discussion.

The good news is that Sjoerd will stay on as a member of ONO. He is taking on a role with the newspaper’s science editorial board and will write about a range of issues including social science issues, but he will remain as a ‘retired’ member of ONO.

His successor in the role will be experienced journalist and author Arjen Fortuin, and we look forward to welcoming him in due course as a new ONO member. Arjen has been the TV critic at NRC Handelsblad since 2017, and is currently working on a biography of Dutch journalist and poet Gerrit Kouwenaar. He will take up the role in September.

In the meantime, Sjoerd has marked the end of his term with a thoughtful essay on the future of ethical journalism and the role of an ombudsman. You can read it here  but we have also put a full English version on the ONO website.


Nothing attracts more attention in the world of journalism these days than the seemingly endless debate about the merits of objectivity.

Recently, two more fascinating pieces have appeared that discuss the issue from different angles.

The first is this piece from Nieman Lab which explores the world of ‘resistance journalism’ and where the boundaries should lie between journalists and activists.

The second piece is from the Columbia Journalism Review, and it asks who the objective view really represents.

For those of us who strive every day to uphold editorial standards where objectivity and impartiality are often central tenets, these articles make for interesting reading.


Many of our members work for public broadcasters, and others work in markets where public broadcasting plays a vital role.

That makes this annual round up from the Public Media Alliance worth checking out.

It explores the coverage of covid (of course) but also the growing concerns around the world about state censorship and government pressure, the challenge of diversity and issues around the safety of journalists.


Members will remember that in our December newsletter, we ran an article about Stephen Glass, the disgraced former New Republic journalist who was fired for making up key details in his stories.

Years later, there was a similar scandal in Germany at the prestigious weekly news magazine Der Spiegel. ONO Board Member Ignaz Staub spoke about the case at our 2019 Conference in New York, and the magazine has just published a long discussion of the case as part of its 75th anniversary. The scandal led to the creation of an ombudsman role at the magazine, which makes it of particular interest to ONO members.

Ignaz has provided this English translation for us: https://www.newsombudsmen.org/the-relotius-scandal/



We have had a suggestion for a shop talk: Employment practices at news organizations about increasing diversity of their reporting staff.

The issue has recently been the subject of reports, including from OFCOM, the regulator in the UK.

Further ideas and suggestions welcome.


Finally this month, the ONO Board is delighted to report that we have received a nomination for the board vacancy following the resignation of A.S. Panneerselvan.

Miriam Lewin, the Defensoría del Público in Argentina, has been a member of ONO since taking up her role in 2020 and has been an active and valued member of the organization.

Miriam has a fascinating and distinguished career in journalism. She has more than 30 years of experience in radio and television. She was a political activist during Argentina’s military dictatorship and in 1977 –at the age of 19– was kidnapped and detained along with thousands of others. Miriam was one of the few survivors and a witness for the prosecution of tenths of military perpetrators. She has retained a strong commitment to human rights, gender issues and the protection of truthful journalism practices.

As the Public Defender, Miriam Lewin is also a board member of the Inter-American Organization of Ombudsmen and Audience Defenders (Organización Interamericana de Defensoras y Defensores de las Audiencias – OID) that brings together 32 ombudsmen of Latin America.

The ONO Board is delighted to support Ms Lewin’s nomination, which not only brings her skills and experience onto the Board but also increases the diversity of the board as well as adding representation from Latin America.

In the absence of any further nominations, the Board proposes to confirm the appointment in time for our next Board meeting in February.

Margo Smit                                                                                                            Alan Sunderland ONO President                                                                                                 ONO Executive Director
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