ONO Newsletter November 2019

The 2020 ONO Conference- HOLD THE DATE!!!

MAY 17TH – MAY 20th

We are yet to confirm the date and location for next year’s conference – there are still some details to be finalised and decisions to be made before we can be sure things won’t change.

But for now we are hoping to hold ONO’s 202 Annual Conference in London between May 17th and May 20th.

So please save the dates and we will confirm as soon as possible.

In the meantime, if you have particular issues you think we should be discussing or panels or speakers to recommend, now is a great time to float those ideas with us.

You can contact ONO with ideas at suggestions at newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com

Important research for all news ombudsmen and standards editors

ONO Board Member and Toronto Star Public Editor Kathy English has been selected for a prestigious research fellowship next year at Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Not only will her project be of great interest to all of us, but she is looking for our assistance and input too.

You’ll be hearing much more about this early next year, but here is the outline of the project, direct from Kathy herself:

“I am so delighted to tell you that I have been selected for a research fellowship to Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism for the spring, 2020 term. I will be taking a four-month leave from the Star and heading to Oxford in early April.

 My research project involves all of you: Its focus is a re-examination of the role of the public editor/news ombudsman through the lens of the trust crisis in global journalism. It will focus on the role of the public editor/news ombudsman in ensuring and explaining trustworthy digital news and information.

I hope to learn from all of you and will be circulating a survey to all members of our organization in the early new year to determine how your regular daily activities are aligned with the imperatives of trustworthy news – for example corrections and upholding ethics policies etc.

This project will examine the history of media self-regulation and the public editor/ombudsman role and how the role fits with current trust and transparency initiatives in digital news.  It will also delve into the increasing need for news literacy that supports democracy and how the public editor/news ombudsman contributes to news literacy.

The goal of this project is to produce a study of the public editor/ombudsman’s role in the current trust crisis and determine whether a role that has long been fraught with a measure of disdain – or simply, disinterest – (particularly in North America) requires rethinking as a critical means of news organizations building trust with news audiences in the digital era.”

Artificial Intelligence and Journalism

ONO Board Member Timo Huovinen, who is the Head of Journalistic Standards and Ethics at Yle, Finland’s national public broadcasting company, says the issue of artificial intelligence in journalism has been a big talking point in his country recently.

Finland’s Council for Mass Media, which is a self-regulatory for the media, has recently issued a statement on how to ensure you are transparent and accountable in the way your news organization uses artificial intelligence. You can find it on the Council’s website here, and ONO has also put an unofficial English translation on our own website.

Meanwhile, fellow ONO member Andrew Cochran has a website dedicated to the latest news and research on artificial intelligence and journalism, which is a growing issue around the world. He writes:

“Whenever the discussion turns to journalism and artificial intelligence, someone often says, ‘where can I find out more about that?’

journalismAI.com is designed to be that place. Since starting shortly after the ONO 2018 conference in Amsterdam, journalismAI.com now has more than 325 pieces about developments in AI and what they mean for the practice of journalism. Each piece is critically assessed before posting. The site grows at a rate of 7-12 new items a week.

The section on ethics was developed with ONO members in mind. It includes sub-topics for principles for AI in journalism and guidelines generally for AI. An adjacent section on trust has sub-topics for disinformation and verification. The site also has a primer on AI essentials and large sections on AI in the newsroom and AI advances, each with several sub-topics. 

Some recent examples from the site:

74 sets of guidelines have been published in the last three years about ‘ethical AI.’ Researchers at ETH University in Zurich identified 11 themes and ‘a global convergence’ for five: transparency, justice and fairness, non-maleficence, responsibility and accountability, and privacy. No codes for journalism were identified in the Zurich study.

Andrew Cochran

ONO Associate Member


****UPDATE: Polis and the Google News Initiative have just released a new report on Journalism and AI and you can find it here.

Member Profile: CRAIG McMURTRIE

This month’s profile is Craig McMurtrie, who took up his role as Editorial Director at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this year.

The Editorial Director role has overall responsibility for editorial standards and training across the whole organization. The ABC is Australia’s largest public broadcaster.

Tell us about yourself. What is your current role and how long have you been in the position? What are your chief duties/responsibilities?

This is my first year in the role of editorial director at the ABC. I provide advice to the managing director, content directors, the ABC Board and lead two teams. A pre-publication group of editorial policy advisors providing advice and training to content makers; and an independent investigations unit that handles complex editorial complaints.

What was your career/background prior to taking up your current role?

I’ve been a content maker for nearly 40 years, working for New Zealand and Australian public service media.  I’ve been a journalist with the ABC for 27 years, specialising in political and international reporting.  I consider myself very lucky to have had three foreign postings, including two stints in Washington for the ABC.  I was also a senior news executive for more than a decade – managing state newsrooms, national and international newsgathering and daily news outlets.  Before I took this role, I was the executive editor and deputy director of ABC News.

What are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities faced by your organisation/the media in general in your country?

For the ABC it’s about ensuring the most trusted media organisation in the country continues to deliver for all Australians at a time when audiences are being swamped with choice by international players like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and Apple.  Like other mainstream media we have to transition with audiences from broadcast to digital, we have to meet all our statutory responsibilities, do it with less funds and rebalance our audience profile by attracting more younger Australians.  And we have the added challenge of serving communities spread across a vast continent where ten per cent of households aren’t online yet.  Apart from that it’s all very straightforward!

Feel free to share any of the most significant or challenging issues you have had to deal with recently in your role.

This year the biggest challenge was a federal police raid on our Sydney headquarters over a series of stories revealing allegations about the unlawful killing of civilians by special forces soldiers in Afghanistan. The raid sent a chilling message across the media sector, raising serious questions about press freedom in Australia, national security overreach and a lack of protection for responsible public interest journalism and public sector whistle-blowers.  It had the unintended consequence of uniting all major media organisations who have since teamed up to launch an unprecedented public campaign for media law reform.

Is there any question or comment you would like to make to the ONO membership generally as part of this profile? Something you would like advice or input on?

I’m interested in new ideas for effective community outreach, particularly if anyone is trying something new to bring audiences into the editorial process and improve transparency.

Ombudsmen decisions and news

Each month, we 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.

ONO Membership fees

Hooray! It’s that time of the year again!

You will soon be receiving an invoice via email for your 2020 membership fee.

The good news is that the ONO Board has reviewed its financial situation and is in a position to maintain or even reduce the level of our fees for both existing and new members.

You will notice the new fee structure when your invoice arrives, but the new arrangements are (in US dollars) $200 for full members, $150 for associate members, $100 for full members from developing countries, and $75 for retired members.

Not only have we managed to lower our fee structure, but in 2020 we will be launching a new members-only section of our website to give you access to more and better information and resources about editorial standards, ombudsman activities, recent relevant decisions, etc…

We look forward to your ongoing support, and if you are aware of other ombudsmen or standards editors who you think would benefit from ONO membership, please let us know by contacting us at newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com

And finally…

It’s nice to know we are finally getting the attention we deserve:


Bjarne Schilling                                                                             Alan Sunderland

ONO President                                                    ONO Executive Director Bjarne.Schilling@pol.dk newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com

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