ONO Newsletter May 2021


Thanks to all ONO members who joined one or both of our popular shop talks on the vexed issue of unpublishing.

For those wishing to catch up on the content, revisit part or all of it, or just take advantage of some of the content on offer, we now have:

  • Full videos of both sessions now available in the members only section of the ONO website, as well as
  • A transcript of the “chat” discussion that took place alongside the shop talk, which contains some excellent information on the various policies and approaches taken by our member organizations.
  • A copy of the PowerPoint presentation of the talk

Attention now turns to our forthcoming annual general meeting, which is happening via Zoom on Tuesday June 8th at 1200 UTC.

We are hoping to incorporate another shop talk as part of the AGM – stay tuned for more information! But we also have some other business to attend to.

We will be electing a new President and a new Vice-President following the planned departure of Bjarne Schilling and Sally Begbie, and we also have vacancies for Board Members.

The voluntary position of Executive Director (which is responsible for assisting the ONO Board and distributing a monthly newsletter, as well as handling membership requests and other queries) is also open to anyone who would like to volunteer to take on the role. Alan is happy to continue for another year, but equally happy if someone else would like a turn.

So if you have ever thought of joining the Board or simply become more involved in how ONO is run, now is the time to throw your hat in the ring.

What’s involved?

  • ONO can have up to 13 board members at any one time. We currently have 11.
  • The Board meets via Zoom approximately once a month for around an hour, to plan shop talks, discuss key issues of interest to members, plan other activities (including conferences) and look for ways to continue to promote and expand the organization and its work.
  • Directors normally serve for three years, but can then nominate to continue for further three year periods.
  • The Executive Director is an unpaid role (some expenses are reimbursed, including travel and accommodation for the annual conference up to a set limit) that supports the board, assists with some planning of shop talks and coordinates the monthly newsletter, as well as handling approaches from new members.

As you can see, the duties are minimal but the opportunities for great conversations with fellow ombudsmen and standards editors are significant.

Anyone can nominate at any time, including at the meeting itself. However, if you are considering nominating and would like to find out more, please contact Alan Sunderland at newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com


An interesting new initiative from ONO member Tim Pauwels, who is Ombudsman at VRT, the public broadcaster for the Flemish Community in Belgium.

Like (I am sure) many of our members, Tim has been deluged with complaints about Covid-19, far too many to respond to individually.

Having identified some of the most common themes raised, Tim has been recording video responses to share widely.

Most of the clips, of course, are in Flemish Dutch, but here is a recent one he recorded in English which may be of interest to members.

It provides a novel and effective way to engage with the public on issues of concern.

By way of context, Belgium has been experiencing the challenges of some tough lockdowns, and over 20,000 Covid deaths have been registered in the country.

You can access the clip here: https://www.vrt.be/vrtnws/en/2021/04/08/covid-19-did-create-excess-mortality-and-it-is-also-dangerous-fo/


Eduardo Suarez, Head of Communications at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, has been in touch to let ONO know about the release of their latest report on Trust in News.

He writes:

“This report looks at users’ perceptions of the journalism they consume and what this tells us about why they trust, or do not trust, the news. The research is based on open-ended interviews and focus groups with 132 individuals in India, Brazil, the UK and the US. It’s an important report and especially useful for public editors around the world. 

Some of the key findings include:

  • Editorial processes are less central to how many people think about trust with stylistic factors around the presentation of news offering more tangible signals of perceived quality or reliability
  • Polarising media figures often stand out with presenters often being more visible than reporters, and many interviewees more able to name outspoken figures and those they disagree with
  • Some perceive that news coverage is driven by hidden agendas, a view often reflecting differences in their users’ own political or social identities, is driven by commercial or partisan interests, and distorts portrayals of certain communities
  • The impact of COVID-19 on trust in news appears to be minimal. Despite concerns about health misinformation and information overload, the pandemic hasn’t changed pre-existing views about the news media
  • News on platforms is often perceived as less trustworthy and although many value the convenience of accessing news via social media and search engines, it is often a secondary consideration

The report, Listening to what trust in news means to users: qualitative evidence from four countries, is authored by Benjamin Toff, Sumitra Badrinathan, Camila Mont’Alverne, Amy Ross Arguedas, Richard Fletcher and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. It is available on our website: https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/listening-what-trust-news-means-users-qualitative-evidence-four-countries

  • How polite should journalists be? A fascinating discussion at NPR in the latest newsletter from ONO member Kelly McBride
  • Some wonderful observations from Elisabeth Ribbans about her role as the Readers’ Editor at the Guardian (including, of course, a plug for ONO!)
  • An important new report about the state of digital preservation of online news
  • The uneasy and challenging relationship between journalists and whistle-blowers has always been a key issue in media ethics, which makes this article worth a read

You may remember that last year, in honour of our 40th anniversary, we posted this short history of ONO on our website.

This year, we decided to do something a little more prosaic, but still essential reading.

From an official point of view, there are two important documents that formally establish ONO as an organization and set out the rules governing it.

They are the Articles of Incorporation and the By-Laws, and both of them have now been placed in the Members Only section of our website for all members to access.

Bjarne Schilling                                                                                                            Alan Sunderland ONO President                                                                                                ONO Executive Director
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