ONO Newsletter September 2021


Another excellent shop talk this month, and another great turn out from our members.

23 members joined the call to hear Ricardo Sandoval-Palos share his experiences in dealing with the kind of orchestrated online attacks that so many of us have encountered at one time or another.

What followed was a great discussion where members shared their own experiences, and their own tips for handling the challenges.

The video of the talk is now on our website and it is definitely worth watching. Here’s a link.

One of the highlights was a contribution from Tim Pauwels on the systems, processes and guidelines he uses to moderate social media comments. He has shared with ONO members a PowerPoint presentation on the subject and that is now also in the Shop Talk section of our website. You can find a link to it here.


While we are talking about the state on online commentary and online criticism, there have been some recent developments across the world that promise (or threaten, depending on your view) to change some of the rules around defamation in this area.

Edward Wasserman, a professor of journalism and the former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, is also an associate member of ONO. He has shared with us his recent article on moves in the United States to strengthen the laws of defamation in relation to online abuse.

In similar vein, a recent court judgement in Australia, where defamation laws against the media are already far stricter than in the US, threatens to make life even harder for media organizations by making them liable for the comments posted by others on their online stories. Here’s a summary of the case and here is some of the analysis it has attracted.


Thanks to everyone who responded to our survey last month about the prospects for a physical ONO Conference sometime next year.

We received 21 responses, and this is what you told us:

  • 57% said they would be able to travel internationally next year, while a further 33% said it was still too soon to say.
  • 85% said they would be interested in attending an ONO Conference if one were held.
  • 47% said they would prefer that it would be held in the second half of the year, while 42% said any time would be fine.
  • 47% had no preference for where it would be held, and 38% expressed a preference for Europe.

This is very useful information that the ONO Board will factor into its discussions and decision making in coming months.

In the meantime, it’s not too late to add your voice to the process. The link to the survey is still live and you can find it here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/P335CXL


 Many of you will recall that it is just over a year ago that Kathy English stepped down after 13 years as the Public Editor for the Toronto Star.

Turns out you can’t keep a good public editor down.

Kathy has just taken on a new role. She writes:

“This week I began a new role as VP, Content Integrity and Editorial Standards, with the New York-based publishing company Dotdash – voted publisher of the year in the Digiday Media Awards in 2020 and 2018.  https://www.dotdash.com/our-brands/

Dotdash publishes 14 lifestyle brands including Investopedia (finance); Verywell (health);The Spruce (home decor);Lifewire (tech) and Simply Recipes (food).

As Axios wrote, Dotdash is one of the fastest growing and most profitable digital media companies with a $2 billion valuation — higher than Buzzfeed.

I am excited because the company has a strong emphasis on editorial integrity with expert review boards and strong fact-checking processes in place. I will be working as part of the company’s Content Operations and Standards team to enhance consistent trust and transparency measures across the brands, in consultations with the brand leaders. Dotdash also places much value on diversity, equity and inclusion and has incorporated strong DEI policies and practices across all of its work. They have much interest in my public editor work and want me to create better corrections and overall accountability systems.”

It’s great news and we wish Kathy all the best in the new role.

It is also fantastic to note the commitment to editorial standards and accountability that many emerging companies in digital media are displaying.

This comes on top of the recent decision by Politico to appoint Anita Kumar as its first ever Senior Editor for Standards and Ethics.

And in other news, Dutch daily morning newspaper De Volkskrant has decided, after a two year gap, to appoint a new ombudsman, veteran journalist Jeroen Trommelen. You can read more here.


“What’s new?” by danielsteuri is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  • The latest newsletter from NPR Public Editor Kelly McBride is out, and it features some interesting discussion on climate change coverage.
  • ONO Board Member Ignaz Staub has alerted us to this piece in Pro Public on reporting trauma and death.
  • In Argentina, Public Defender and ONO Member Miriam Lewin ran a workshop designed to give a voice to the imprisoned to help them defend their basic rights.
  • Take 5 minutes to listen to this excellent radio interview with ONO Board member and Sth African Ombudsman George Claassen as he discusses anti-vaxxers and Covid-19 misinformation.
  • Controversy in Turkey over moves to censor social media posts to ensure they “align with Islamic values”
  • Meanwhile in China, the social media crackdown there is focussing on broader issues of “morality” and “western decadence”.
  • In India, a court case there rolls on over perceived limits to free speech on digital media.
  • Finally, the debate on journalistic objectivity continues, and this new research provides some fascinating insights.
Margo Smit                                                                                            Alan Sunderland
ONO President                                                                                       ONO Executive Director
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