ONO Newsletter October 2021


“Talking to Reporters and Editors”

It’s the fun part of the job, isn’t it?

You might be an ombudsman or a public editor providing feedback to a reporting team that has fallen short of the mark and incurred your displeasure. Or you might be a standards editor trying to prevent a disaster from happening in the first place.

Either way, there will be days when you find yourself sitting across the table from an angry, defensive or morose journalist who doesn’t like to be told what to do or doesn’t ever want to admit they’ve made a mistake.

How do you handle it? What tricks or approaches work best? Do you have a method you’d like to recommend, or do you just want to share your pain and see how others approach it?

This is what we will be discussing in our next shop talk, and we are keen for as many members as possible to share their experiences, questions and suggestions.

So mark the date in your diary and join us for this great opportunity to swap ideas on a challenge that all of us are likely to be facing on a regular basis.

Unlike other recent shop talks, there will be no guest speaker for this one, as the people with the most knowledge and insight are right here in our own ranks at ONO. If you want to flag an interest in speaking on this issue, don’t hesitate to get in touch with ONO Executive Director Alan Sunderland in advance on newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com and he will be sure to call on you during the shop talk. Otherwise, simply join the discussion on the day. As ever, the Zoom link will be circulated closer to the event.



The ONO Board has started to work on some options for future face-to-face conferences, so we thought we would update you on our thinking. There is nothing definite in place yet, but we are looking into the possibility of holding a conference around September or October of 2022 that would be a mix of face-to-face and virtual sessions.

We expect that many members will be able to travel by then, but for others it may not be possible for a variety of reasons.

The aim, therefore, is to have a more modest conference with, perhaps, one full day of discussions, sessions and panels that are face-to-face for those able to attend. However, several of the key sessions would also be streamed for those not able to be there. Our virtual shop talks have been such a success that we think this combination may be both practical and effective. We will keep you posted as plans firm up, and of course please provide any thoughts or ideas you may have (both in terms of the timing and format of the conference as well as possible issues to cover) to newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com

Beyond a 2022 Conference, we are hoping that we can return to normal in 2023 and hold a full conference and Annual General Meeting in the first part of the year, somewhere between April and early June.

All in all, the signs are looking very promising that many of us will finally be able to meet in the flesh for the first time since New York in 2019.



In the next few weeks, you’ll be receiving your invoice for ONO membership fees for next year.

After this year’s discount of fees due to Covid, we will be returning to our normal fee structures again.

Just a reminder, they are:

  • US$200 for major market newspapers/network broadcasters,
  • $100 for small media organizations or organizations from developing or low-income regions,
  • US$150 for associate membership
  • US$75 for retired or ex-ombudsmen.

If you have any questions or issues about membership fees, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via newsombudsmenorg@gmail.com

Also, if there are other standards editors or ombudsmen that you know of and think might enjoy membership of ONO, please feel free to let us know or reach out to them yourselves.



The ranks of our organization continue to grow, with two new members signing up recently. Let’s give them both a warm welcome…

Anita Kumar is Politico’s first ever Senior Editor for Standards and Ethics. A long-time reporter and White House correspondent, Anita began in the role in September. She works with reporters and editors across POLITICO’s newsrooms on stories and is developing standards, policies and training programs for the staff.

In his note to the staff about the appointment, POLITICO editor-in-chief Matthew Kaminski wrote “Anita will support our most ambitious journalism from inception through publication, and when necessary post-publication, to keep us true to our core values — a commitment to accuracy and fairness, clarity and courage, and non-partisanship. The timeless responsibilities of journalists to look at questions from multiple vantage points, to hear all voices, to illuminate unexamined issues have become even more urgent in recent years as national conversations about democracy and diversity, equity and inclusion have intensified.”

 You can check out her web page here: https://www.politico.com/states/staff/anita-kumar

Jason Cumming is one of seven standards editors at NBC News/ MSNBC, the only one based in the United Kingdom.

He provided the following message to ONO members:

“It’s great to find so many kindred spirits! I started out as part of the last generation of copyboys at the Toronto Sun while attending Ryerson University’s J-school, and have since worked at outlets including the Ottawa Sun, Edinburgh Evening News, The Herald (Glasgow), The Scotsman, MSNBC.com (old-school version) and NBC News Digital. I moved into this role in 2019 and while the news standards team has almost doubled in size since then, it feels like the amount of work has grown even faster. I’m looking forward to getting to you know all as we grapple with so many shared challenges. See you at the next shop talk.”



Next time you visit the ONO website, you’ll see our new feature on the front page. It’s a short summary of recent pieces by or about our members.

We will be trying to keep it up to date and refreshing it every couple of weeks, but principally by checking a few of your web pages and generally having a look around. So please don’t hesitate to email us with items of interest and we will happily post them as links. They don’t have to be in English, either: Google Translate generally does a serviceable job at providing a reasonable translation for others. So please keep us posted and let’s spread the word.



This month, the first ever Code of Ethics for public television has been approved for RTA (Radio y Television Argentina), the body in charge of public TV and national radio.

This major development has come as the country marks the 70th anniversary of television in the country.

One of the experts closely involved in the development was Cynthia Ottaviano, former Defensoria del Publico for Argentina and former ONO Board member. Many members will remember the highly successful ONO Conference that Cynthia organised and hosted in Buenos Aires in 2016.

Cynthia writes that: “The Board of Directors has the obligation to ‘promote the approval of a code of ethics and establish control mechanisms in order to verify violations of its provisions’ (art. 134, inc. C, Law 26.522 LSCA), therefore once I assumed the position I promoted the fulfillment of this article, in an unprecedented way so far, due to its form of collective construction, since its methodology included debates with experts, with the group of workers and with the audiences.

The starting point was a document that I prepared to synthesize the current Codes of Ethics of the region and the world. Then, we agree with male and female workers regular meetings for six months in which we debate in a free, plural and diverse manner, with the convocation of all staff.

First there were nine round tables, which I had the honor of coordinating, based on the experience gained as Defender of the Public of Argentina.

Specialists from the academic, human rights, professional, cultural, trade union, national and international organizations, as well as social organizations were summoned.

I systematized that information received to use it as a new basic input on ethics and responsible treatment of news and fiction about historically violated groups, women, LGTTBIQ + collective, migrants, Afro-descendants, older adults, childhood and adolescence, on topics such as institutional violence, genocides, consumption problems, addictions and abuses.

With this fundamental material we began with almost twenty meetings to debate, reflect and collectively draft the Code, in which each article was voted in favor, abstention or against. All the articles voted were unanimously.

Then an open call was made to the audiences so that they could make their contributions, here you can see the unpublished call in the history of Argentine television: https://dante.tvpublica.com.ar/blog-prensa/las-audiencias- they-have-the-word-in-the-first-code-of-ethics-of-the-tv-argentina /

With these contributions, new meetings were held, observations were introduced and a public meeting was held, also open to the entire society and with the participation of the current Ombudsman, we made known the written articles and the audiences were expressing themselves for almost two hours .

Finally, the RTA Board of Directors unanimously approved the Historic Code. The work will now continue with the creation of an Observatory, with integration of the company, workers and audiences, to comply with what was voted.

This fact has already been celebrated by universities and national and international organizations, both for the unprecedented way of elaboration and for its nature as a promoter of innovative public communication.

It has been a lot of work, a long work, which various people classified as impossible at first, but with the conviction of knowing that our professional work cannot be done without ethics, we succeeded and we are proud to have done it.”

ONO would like to add its hearty congratulations to Cynthia and to all others involved in what has been an exhaustive and highly participatory process.

Current Defensoria and ONO member Miriam Lewin writes that “We are very pleased to accompany from the Defensoria del Publico this initiative of the Code of Ethics for RTA, Argentine Radio and Television.

We want to remark that one of the characteristics of the code is that it was built with the active participation of workers and other actors of civil society.

In fact, this follows the approval of another democratic proposal, the Law of Gender Equality  and Transgender Quota for the media, just passed by Congress whose regulations still have to  be drafted . We strongly and actively supported all the process and the construction of the original bill and are looking forward to the effective implementation of the law, which assures equal rights to women and participation of transgender professionals in the media.”

In a recent update, the Public Media Alliance said that Argentina had been “making strides towards a more resilient public media system. After several years of instability, its new leadership appears to be pushing for the true purpose of public media: to be accountable to the people.”

In addition to developing the new code, there has been talk of providing more job security for journalists and producing content which better reflects the pluralism and diversity of the country, including in relation to coverage of women’s issues and climate change.


in other news…

Margo Smit                                                                                                            Alan Sunderland ONO President                                                                                                ONO Executive Director
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