Members' Update:
First Anniversary Newsletter
December 2016 - January 2017

Dear NNC colleague,

Please find below our December-January newsletter which will bring you up to date on our first-ever AGM, and other exciting happenings, as the council embarks on its second full year of operations.

Many thanks, John Fraser

Letter from President and CEO

The team at the National NewsMedia Council of Canada wish to extend warmest wishes for the holiday season to all our members, as well as report on the success of our first Annual General Meeting and the conclusion of our first full year of operation. I would like to reiterate the opening remarks I made at the AGM and highlight some of the key points:

“It is exciting to deliver to all our members the first annual report for the National NewsMedia Council of Canada. This excitement is ironically set against the most challenging period in the history of newspapering in Canada, with equivalent challenges in the magazine publishing world, accompanied by uncertainty in the economic models of digital media which have so far emerged. You might reasonably think we are crazy to describe the situation we are in as “exciting”, but it is. That’s because the local, national and international news stories of our times are as compelling as ever and the variety of reportage is expanding like topsy. For us, the constant is the inevitability of error, exaggeration or plain misunderstanding and the continuing commitment of our members to media accuracy, fairness and ethics – in short, our mandate – remains as strong as ever, even more strong in some cases.”

At the AGM, I highlighted some of the key challenges I believe we face at the NNC, the key one being the urgent need to sign up more members in the ever-expanding world of digital news. The other significant challenge includes handling the consequences of the rapidly changing – and shrinking – universe of the newspaper and magazine worlds. Our principal challenge remains the continuing need to refine the efficiency and quality of responses to complaints brought to our organization for evaluation and decision-making. This is the core of the NCC’s strategic plan for 2017 which will be presented at our first board meeting in the New Year.

As I told all members attending the AGM, we are proud of the record of our first year: with a small but efficient staff, we have easily tripled the number of annual responses to complaints of all the other provincial press councils put together, and even so we believe we can do better because technology is on our side. This is important because of the speed with which errors and mistakes get circulated in the digital age.

We are constantly evaluating, and re-evaluating our procedures and impact. We also really appreciate feedback so don’t hesitate to contact us if you have ideas or criticism.


John Fraser captured the day after his induction into the Canadian News Hall of Fame. The smile still hasn't left his face. 


Complaints Report

The complaints coordinator has handled 78 phone calls in the past six weeks, which is about half the number that go to line 1 – the President and CEO.

At both desks, a handful of callers had story tips or were seeking contact information for a publication. Another dozen had complaints about news coverage. Complaints about too many flyers were outweighed by complaints from those missing flyers they count on.

November 24 was rainy, and we heard a dozen complaints that day alone about non-delivery of papers. There seems to be a consistent correlation between a rainy day and delivery issues.

But by far the most complaints in the past month zeroed in on the disappearance of the sports scores in Postmedia and Sun papers. Readers were furious, and baffled by the move.

We also fielded calls from readers who still miss the stock market section of the business report.

This office has fielded seven written complaints since the last newsletter. Two were resolved after investigation at the staff level, two went to council for consideration and, three are still in progress. Among the complaints were use of Facebook information, an allegedly misleading headline, concern about information alleged to incite hatred, and use of unattributed information.

- Patricia Perkel, Executive Director and Complaints Co-Ordinator


Reaching Out, Speaking Out 

Over the past month, the NNC has been working hard to ensure that our organization stands firmly in the public eye, both in issues of media ethics and press freedom. On the former, we completed our seminar series at the Munk School of Global Affairs with a thought-provoking discussion on the 'fake news' phenomenon and the importance of accuracy, particularly in the digital age. On the latter point, the NNC joined a global coalition of industry organizations to demand that the federal government address the problem of eroding press freedoms in Canada. To see the full list of the consortium's recommendations to government, please take a look at the full statement here.

On a lighter note, many NNC members and staff gathered to celebrate the induction of President and CEO John Fraser's induction to the News Hall of Fame. It was a wonderful evening to celebrate the career (still ongoing!) of such an honourable and distinguished gentleman. 

If you have suggestions on directions you think we should take on our ‘road ahead’, or partnerships you think would be interesting to form, please don’t hesitate to send me an email to:  

- Brent Jolly, Director of Communications and Community Manager


Protect Yourself from Defamation

Our friends at the Community Newspapers Reciprocal Insurance Exchange and media lawyer Stuart Robertson have provided a reminder about special provision newspapers have regarding defamation.

We are not in the business of giving legal advice, but are happy to pass the following along, with the strong recommendation that you contact your media lawyer or newspaper association for further information:

Statutes grant special rights to newspapers in defending defamation claims, especially when something disreputable has been published in error. In those cases, if a retraction is published on a timely basis in an appropriate place, the paper is protected from most types of damages.

In Ontario, the retraction must be published within three days of receipt of the notice of libel, or in the next edition in the case of a weekly paper. Other provinces and territories have similar protections.

The defamation statutes grant specific rights to newspapers regarding libel suits, including short periods in which they can be sued; getting notice of the plaintiff’s intent to sue; specific defences for reporting on public events; the right to eradicate claims for most types of damages if they publish a retraction; and the right to have damages against them mitigated by any other award of damages or compensation paid to other defendants for the same libel.

But to qualify for the special provision, the newspaper must publish a ‘Notice’ in every edition, stating the name of its proprietor, publisher and physical address.

In Ontario, the Notice must go either on the front page of the newspaper or above the lead editorial on the editorial page. This position may not suit your layout and design, but it is a legal requirement.

Courts have ruled the web version of your newspaper is as much newspaper as the print version, so it is advised you put the Notice on the home page of your website, or on the ‘Contact Us’ page.

Special rights around defamation are granted by law because newspapers are vital to freedom of expression, and to encourage correction of errors.

But remember: if your newspaper does not publish the Notice as described and is sued for defamation, you will not be entitled to the basic newspaper defences. Also, you will not benefit fully from publishing a retraction or from mitigating your damages when someone else settles with the plaintiff for the same libel.  


Happy Holidays!

The National NewsMedia Council office will be closed from December 24 until January 3. All complaints made during that time will be logged and responded to promptly upon the re-opening of the office. 


Information update

We've updated the NNC information that promotes your membership and lets readers know how to get in touch with us. Here it is for your use:

{Your news organization) is a member of the National NewsMedia Council, a voluntary self-regulatory organization that deals with journalistic practices and ethical behaviour. If you have an unresolved complaint about news stories, opinion columns or photos, please visit our web site at or call 1-844-877-1163. If you have a complaint about delivery or subscription problems, please contact the paper’s business office.

We would appreciate if you included our organization's logo either in your printed publication or on your website. A high-resolution version can be downloaded on our website.       

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