ONO Newsletter November 2020


As we mentioned in our last newsletter, ONO is committed to organising regular opportunities for virtual conversations.

We are hoping to hold at least four virtual shop talks every year, so all ideas for topics and speakers will be gratefully accepted.

Following our successful discussion with Tom Rosenstiel last month on impartiality, the Board has proposed Wednesday January 13th next year at 1200 UTC as the date and time for our next virtual shop talk via Zoom.

More details will be available closer to the date, but the likely topic at this stage will be the ethics of journalists expressing their own opinions in public forums, whether it be social media, attending marches, demonstrations and protests or any other form of external activity.

The BBC has recently been involved in considering these questions in relation to situations such as taking part in a Pride march or in a Black Lives Matter-demonstration.

It is an issue that we feel many members will have experienced in one way or another, and there seem to be a range of views on what is appropriate, including differences in views between younger and older journalists.

You will be hearing more about the session in next month’s newsletter, but for now we would encourage you to put the date in your diaries as it is sure to be an interesting discussion.


ONO was recently contacted by Associate Professor Paul Glader, the Chair of the Program in Journalism, Culture and Society  and Director of the McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute at King’s College in New York.

Along with others, Professor Glader recently received funding from the Knight Foundation to develop and build a workflow automation tool that provides a simple and effective way for newsrooms to handle corrections management and reader feedback.

The project has progressed to the stage that the team behind it has now formed a company to offer the tool to newsrooms (primarily in the US, but ultimately further afield).

It is called Vett News, and the website includes a short video explaining how the code works.

It is initially being rolled out free of charge to all college newspapers and a group of professional newspapers in the US as part of the trial period. When it is ready for wider distribution, it will be a commercial product for sale.

Professor Glader contacted ONO because he thought our members might be interested to know more about it. While the product will be a commercial offering, Professor Glader says his team “wants the product to do good in the world and improve the trust relationship between news media and the audience”. As a result, and because the team behind Vett News knows the news industry is suffering financially at the moment, Professor Glader says they are considering ways they could sell a version of the product to larger news corporations with more extensive operations while offering it at a reduced price to others.

ONO’s role as a forum for members to discuss issues of common interest means we do not endorse or recommend any specific systems, products or technology. However, we are happy to keep members informed of interesting developments that are drawn to our attention, and the website for Vett News contains more information and contacts for anyone wishing to explore further. In particular, the team is always keen to hear feedback from industry “experts” on ways to make such a tool effective and useful in practice.


How do you handle it in your newsroom?

Two members of ONO (former Board member Kathy English and Executive Director Alan Sunderland) are currently involved on the advisory board of a project which is looking at the decisions newsrooms make when they are asked by third parties to take down stories that are online.

The project is being run by Deborah Dwyer at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, and it is designed “to help newsrooms tackle the increasingly complex challenges related to requests to unpublish media content.“

The project is still in its early stages, but Deborah is particularly keen to see as many different existing policies and guidelines as possible showing how newsrooms handle the issue at the moment.

This particularly refers to individuals (and sometimes organizations) who have asked for content to be removed because they find it embarrassing or damaging, NOT because it is inaccurate or legally problematic.

Some media organisations, like the ABC in Australia and the BBC in the UK have guidelines which are publicly available, while others may have internal guidance.

If your newsroom has written advice on the issue that you are happy to share (or published guidelines you can point to) please pass them on to us via newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com  and we will share them with the project.

THE ROLE OF A NEWS OMBUDSMAN – An International Perspective

Recently  the Executive Director of ONO, Alan Sunderland, was commissioned by the Organization for Security and Cooperation to prepare a research paper on the theory and practice behind establishing an ombudsman role and/or other forms of self-regulation for the media.

It was part of a project the OSCE is currently undertaking to encourage self-regulation in the Ukrainian media, based on established independent journalism standards.

With the permission of the OSCE, we are now able to share this document with ONO members. At this stage, it is only for the information and background use of our own members. Eventually, it will be free to share more widely and we will update you when this occurs.

For now, it can be found in the members only section of our website (just a reminder that the password for entry to this section of the website is currently TRUST2020).

You can find the relevant page here.


Bjarne Schilling                                                                            Alan Sunderland ONO President                                                                 ONO Executive Director
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