ONO Newsletter July 2019

A Message from the ONO President

What a pleasure it was to meet so many of you at the excellent New York conference – it may be that an ombudsman has the loneliest job in the newsroom, but once a year we can truly say that we are among friends. Thanks for very fruitful discussions.

In order to enhance the exchange of views between conferences and broaden our outreach, the ONO Board has decided that our organization should reinstate the voluntary position of Executive Director, to assist the board in coordinating the day to day running of the organization. 

I am very pleased to inform you that the Board has appointed Alan Sunderland to the position. Alan has done a magnificent job as ONO treasurer over the last three years, and having retired from his position at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, he has volunteered to do work for ONO. I am sure that with him as our Executive Director our organization will become even more relevant to our members.

Today we have the pleasure of issuing our first monthly newsletter – please note that you are most welcome to contribute. Send any ideas and suggestions to newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com

2019 Conference

This year’s conference in New York, organised with the assistance and involvement of the Columbia Journalism Review, was a great success.

The theme was Journalism in a Polarized World, and many of the sessions covered the challenges of producing independent ethical journalism in an era where media outlets are under pressure to ‘take sides’ in an increasingly polarised public debate.

Among the many highlights were:

  • Kyle Pope, CJR Editor, in conversation with Craig Newmark on the challenges of funding ethical journalism.
  • Richard Davis (CNN) and David Jordan (BBC) discussing the respective challenges of reporting on President Trump and Brexit.                                                                            
  • Tim Pauwels exploring the fundamentals of perceived biases.                                            
  • A very vigorous and engaging panel discussion, moderated by Kathy English, on whether the media is fair to conservatives. Not surprisingly, representatives from Breitbart, the Columbia Journalism School and the Poynter Institute had very different views on this hot button topic.                                                                                                   
  • A wide ranging discussion of media polarization around the world, with commentary from members in India, South Africa, Israel and Argentina.                                                 
  • A fascinating dissection, led by Sally Begbie, of the controversy over the live-streaming of the attack on the Christchurch mosque in New Zealand.                                         
  • Finally, there were a series of ‘shop talks’ on practical issues and problems confronting ombudsmen and standards editors around the world. These ‘closed shop’ discussions are always a welcome feature of ONO conferences – a chance to swap notes and share concerns about the issues that confront us all.                                                                 

Our new Board

Following the conference, several ONO members joined the board to fill vacancies left by retiring members.

The ONO Board meets monthly (via teleconference) to discuss issues of relevance to members, to oversee the management and finances of the organization, and to plan future conferences and other member activities.

The new ONO Board now consists of:

Bjarne Schilling (President) – Readers’ Editor, Politiken, Denmark

Sally Begbie (Vice-President) – Ombudsman, Special Broadcasting Service, Australia

Lars Bennike -Viewer’s Editor, TV2, Denmark

David Jordan – Director, Editorial Policy & Standards, BBC, United Kingdom

A S Paneerselvan – Readers’ Editor, The Hindu, India

George Claassen – Public Editor, Media24 and News24, South Africa

Tarmu Tammerk – Ombudsman, Estonian Public Broadcasting

Ignaz Staub – Ombudsman, Tamedia, Switzerland

Elizabeth Jensen – Public Editor, NPR, United States

Timo Huovinen – Chief of Journalistic Standards and Ethics, YLE, Finland

Kathy English – Public Editor, Toronto Star, Canada

Margo Smit – Ombudsman, NPO, the Netherlands

Ombudsmen decisions and news

Each month, we will aim to draw attention to recent decisions, comments and articles by ONO members and other ombudsmen/public editors/complaints handlers that may be of interest.

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.

  • In Canada, ONO Member Jack Nagler examined a complaint about electric cars, and his decision shows how ombudsmen can often provide constructive advice and feedback even when they find no breaches of editorial standards


  • In the UK, the BBC’s complaints unit dealt with allegations of bias over the coverage of Boris Johnson:


  • In the US, NPR examined some challenges and sensitivities around the coverage of matters of sex:


  • In Australia, new ONO member Craig McMurtrie discussed the recent controversial police raids at the public broadcaster:


  • In the Netherlands, ONO Board Member Margo Smit discussed the recent revisions to a global code of ethics for journalists:



Industry News

Website plans

As well as providing a regular monthly newsletter, ONO is planning to update and expand its website this year, and we need your ideas and suggestions.

We want to provide more information about the organization and its members and encourage a more regular exchange of views and discussion, as well as providing resources that are relevant and useful to members.

One idea we are working on is to create a members-only section of the website (protected by password) that will be the new home for members’ contact details as well as up-to-date links to each member’s editorial policies and codes and space where more sensitive issues and challenges can be discussed. We are keen on your feedback on this idea.

Also, if there is anything else you would like to see on the site, please email us at newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com with your suggestions.

In particular, we are keen to test interest in sections of the site in other languages – for example, Spanish content for our colleagues from Latin and South America.

New members

ONO is always looking to expand its members among ombudsmen and standards editors around the world, so if you know of anyone who you think should join us, feel free to get in touch and let us know.

In the meantime, we extend a warm welcome to the following new members or associate members who have joined us recently:

Arlene Getz is an experienced journalist who has just completed several years as the Opinion Editor for Reuters, with previous experience at Newsweek and a strong history of interest in journalism ethics.

Grazina Ramanauskaite is the Inspector of Journalist Ethics in Lithuania.

Craig McMurtrie is the Editorial Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Follow us on Twitter

ONO has a Twitter account and we are planning to bring it back to life this year and use it regularly to post items of interest to members.

If you have a presence on Twitter yourself, you can do two things to promote ONO on this platform:

  1. Follow us. The ONO twitter account is @ONOOrgOmbuds
  2. Use the hashtag. Whenever you are sharing something that you think will be of interest to fellow ombudsmen and standards editors, use the hashtag #ONONews That will make it easier for us to find your contributions and share them via our Twitter feed and our website.

Bjarne Schilling                                                                             Alan Sunderland

ONO President                                                                   ONO Executive Director

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

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