Members' Update: Winter 2018

Letter from our President and CEO

After much planning and hard work, I'm happy to report that the National NewsMedia Council of Canada has successfully launched an innovative academic membership initiative. The aim is to approach every English-language or bilingual campus in the country and invite them to join the NNC. So far we have close to a dozen members, with many more expected to sign on throughout the year.

As I explained in our last newsletter, the aim here is not just to widen our base membership but also to forge a reciprocal alliance with crucial institutions which have just as much at stake in an ethical media as has the print and digital news media industry. Not only does this initiative bring into our membership dozens of new publications right across the country, but in a mutual arrangement of interests the NNC gets the advantage of seasoned practitioners in the business of ethical research practices. Mutual is the key word: the hope here is to forge mutual protection, mutual benefit on behalf of all of our constituencies, mutual sharing of skills and practices, and – most of all – mutual respect.

The programme is innovative because, although there has been plenty of collusion and sharing between journalism and the academy over the years, there has never been anything quite like this. These days, both institutions are evolving in ways neither fully expected and the need for mutual support has never been so obvious.

As a result of the importance we attach to this programme, and because we at the NNC have learned a few things since we were founded in 2015, we are making some administrative changes to our structure. This will be the last time I write to our members as “President and CEO”. As of April, I will be translated into the NNC’s first “Executive Chair” with a new mandate to work hard on the academic project as well as conduct the affairs of the NNC board and council. Pat Perkel, who already holds the title of Executive Director and Complaints Co-ordinator, has a redefined and enhanced role in the NNC as its chief administrator. Reporting to her directly is Brent Jolly who is now a full-time member of the team and handles the communications and community file. 

Our board, which has 17 public and industry members from coast to coast, will continue to have three vice chairs. Out on Vancouver Island, Shelley Chrest translates from being our current chair and returns to her founding position of Vice Chair (West); in Newfoundland, Miller Ayre remains Vice Chair (East), and in Toronto Joanne De Laurentiis also continues as Vice Chair (Central).

We hope this administrative restructuring will help the NNC to continue as a strong voice for ethical journalism. The news media world continues to be challenged and evolve, but the NNC is more than holding its own. We have launched our new podcast (see elsewhere in this Newsletter), we remain on guard against any government intrusions that would compromise or regulate the news media, and new members are joining us every month. With these administrative changes, we also hope to be more efficient.

- John Fraser


We welcome new members of the National NewsMedia Council who have recently signed on. 

Our new members include:


• Thorold News

Digital-only Publications:

• J-Source

• The Niagara Independent




Academic Members:

• The University of Toronto

• Ryerson University

• The Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD)

• Carleton University

• Centennial College

• McGill University

• Concordia University 

Other Partnerships:

•  Effective January 1, 2018, we have partnered with the Canadian Media Guild (Freelance) to offer their accredited members access to our pre-publication advice and other services. 

News from our Board of Directors:

• Mary Vallis rejoins the NNC Board of Directors, as our inaugural academic council member.


Local News: The Foundation for Building Trust

Of the dozens of recent complaints, two were out of the ordinary in that they expressed strong appreciation for the news media, and a desire to see it thrive. Each speaks in a different way to that message.

To quote our first complainant, who had long-term problems getting home delivery and no retail option to buy a paper, “The absence of my local paper meant that I missed virtually all of the local events in and around (my town)….. I also missed any and all coverage of local and regional politics.”

Local news is getting well-deserved attention.

This writer observed that the “media has both a higher responsibility and a social duty in a free society”, and that many readers do not have access to digital versions for generational or geographic reasons.

The letter writer hits all the marks in describing the importance of local news, as well as the frustration when the valued news product is not delivered.

The NNC cannot solve delivery issues, but of nearly 450 phone complaints to NNC staff so far this year, about 200 have been about delivery and subscriptions. Another 70 or so were about general customer service issues. Frequently, we are told the NNC number is the only one in the paper, or the only one that answers. We respond because we take the view that no complaint is left unanswered, and because we have a mandate to be of service to our members. We hope we leave you with a better informed and calmed customer when we pass along your circulation department phone number.

The second complainant was concerned about the impact of fake news and fake news sites. “How about a campaign to educate us about your world and what you do daily to make sure someone is taking the trouble to vet sources, check facts, etc. so that we can trust you? You and your principles are badly needed.”

That last line was a nice boost, as is the fact that newspapers are addressing the issue of trust. The Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail, for example, have each embarked on trust projects to help readers understand the journalism they do.

The NNC addresses trust when our members are held to bedrock principles such as factual accuracy, opportunity to respond, and separation of news and opinion as they gather and report the news. Our transparent complaints process is proving to be an important venue for educating about how the media works.

Worth noting is the reader’s vital role. A responsible public must be willing to consider the source, apply judgment, and think before clicking 'like' or 'share'. This kind of news media literacy has been suggested as a curriculum component at the elementary or secondary school level, and for campaigns in traditional and social media.

Questions about standards and trust have been asked, and efforts to address them are being made on a number of fronts. The challenge is to carry the effort forward in spite of changing technology, fragmented audiences and polarized opinion.

 - Pat Perkel, Executive Director and Complaints Co-Ordinator


The Complaints Desk:

 By the Numbers

From the beginning of the new year until March 16, 2018, the NNC has opened 17 new complaint files.

One complaint was resolved due to corrective action taken; 1 was upheld; 2 were dismissed; 1 was dismissed with reservation; 7 were declined and 5 are in progress.

In the same period, 29 complaints were submitted but not accepted. Five complaints centred on broadcast websites; 8 on puzzle changes; 2 were stale dated, and others dealt with non-members or with non-specific, non-mandate complaints. Complaints that are not accepted are answered, and an explanation for declining the request is provided. 

To subscribe to our distribution list for new decisions, please click here


37 Front Street File: Spotlighting local news

Over the past few months, our small but mighty team is proud to see the fruits of our collective labours beginning to blossom. We’ve been keeping warm (and busy!) by recruiting several new members – both print, digital, and academic – who believe in the NNC’s vision of upholding the public interest by ensuring that media members uphold the highest professional and ethical standards of the craft.

In addition to working with our industry members and the public by mediating and resolving editorial disputes (for more on those, please see our Executive Director’s commentary above), we’ve also been participants in several news literacy and educational activities over the last several months. For example, we’ve been working closely with two of our new academic members: Ryerson and Carleton Universities.

First, with Ryerson University, we’ve partnered with Professor April Lindgren to undertake a survey of local newsrooms. A similar project has examined the situation of local newsrooms in Spain, the United States, and Austria. With this project, we hope to better understand how small Canadian newsrooms receive information and training about ethical practices.

Second, with Carleton University, we recently did a seminar with Professor Susan Harada’s brilliant crop of masters of journalism students on issues of standards, privacy, and corrections. Moreover, we supported the Ottawa Citizen’s Matthew Pearson, who is currently the Michener-Deacon Fellowship for Journalism Education, to host a day-long symposium on trauma-informed journalism. 

Later this month, we are happy to be launching the second annual competition for the Fraser MacDougall Award, in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights. This prize will be awarded to two campus journalists (one writer, one editor) who produce the best piece of human rights journalism during the 2017-2018 academic year. The winners will be invited to attend the annual JHR Night for Rights; have their publication distributed to attendees; and get their article re-printed in the Toronto Star.

 - Brent Jolly, Director of Communications and Community Manager


We'd like to introduce you to our new podcast:
'True Confessions' 

Our first guest is:

Jesse Brown from Canadaland


Listen on: iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher


The Sentinel Courier

Pilot Mound, Manitoba

“For about 70 years, residents of the Clearwater catchment area have been paying a levy which supports their community hall,” reports newspaper publisher Susan Peterson in the February 27, 2018 edition of the Sentinel Courier.

“Council felt it was time that the residents of Pilot Mound also supported [their community hall] by way of a small levy.”

If you’re a property owner in Pilot Mound, Manitoba, who missed the recent council hearing, you might not know the levy applies to you—unless you subscribe to your weekly newspaper.

The Sentinel Courier in Pilot Mound has printed local news for nearly 140 years, and Peterson plans to keep it that way. Deliberately eschewing a major online presence, the Sentinel Courier is one of the few remaining news outlets in Canada that circulate all their news stories offline.

People love seeing the cut lines, says Peterson, who marks her tenth year as owner this fall.

“They love seeing themselves in their paper,” she laughed. “If it’s their kids that are in the paper, [it] gets cut out and put in the baby book. You can’t cut that out of Facebook, you know? It’s more permanent.”

Like most local print publications, the paper’s advertising revenue and classifieds section suffered with the rise of Facebook and Google. Manitoban winters also slow sales.

“In January and February on the Prairies, there’s not a lot—the farmers can’t advertise anything and it’s not a big time of year for real estate.”

Fortunately, its loyal subscriber base of about 1,100 ensures the newspaper goes out each and every Tuesday. Peterson says the small-town paper has subscribers throughout North America—and even one in France.

“They leave here and they want their hometown news,” explains Peterson of her dedicated readers. “And as they age, they may be considering retiring back here, so they want to know what’s going on.”

As the only full-time staff member of the paper, Peterson says she’s been “training” community members to “submit news tips, little stories, and photos” for publication.

Neither she nor her two part-time staff members has formal journalism training. In fact, Peterson had never planned on being a newspaper publisher until she was approached to buy the Courier before a corporate publisher could snatch it up.

“It wasn’t something I really wanted to do, but I felt like the community was going to lose it if I didn’t, so I took the plunge and bought it.”

A decade later, Peterson still enjoys seeing people line up at the post office every Tuesday to get their copies.

“They sit outside the post office and read this paper. It’s awesome.”

While Peterson believes “small Canadian newspapers are very powerful,” she does worry about the impact of misinformation online.

“People take for granted that what they see on Facebook is the truth,” she says. There is fake news, she says, and it lives online.

“In a newspaper, my reputation is on the line if I print something that could hurt somebody.”

From eroding advertising revenue to altering reading habits, the impact that the internet has had on most print publishers is cause for pessimism, but Peterson is convinced that community papers are here to stay.

“We are trusted,” she says, by virtue of what it means to be a small-town paper.

The Winnipeg Free Press has its credibility because of its size and its number of subscribers, but we have a different kind of credibility because the people who read our paper know us as individuals.”

While she concedes it may take some time “for the younger generation” to see things her way, she says she strongly believes that people will rely on newspapers for advertising and news stories and content that they know they can trust.

“They’ll come to that realization,” she says, “unless Facebook becomes more accountable for the stuff that is on there—which it won’t.”

- Cara Sabatini


Coming Soon: Mark Your Calendars! 

OCNA Spring Convention

     April 20:
    ONCA Spring Convention

Canadian Community Newspaper Awards

April 30:
Deadline to submit for Canadian Community Newspaper Awards

CAJ 2018

May 4-5: 
Canadian Association of Journalists National Conference

ONA Insights

May 11:
ONA Insights: Revenue and Engagement 


In Memoriam: Don McCurdy

The retired newspaper man, and former executive director of the Ontario Press Council, passed away last week. He was 67. 

John Fraser, President and CEO, National NewsMedia Council of Canada released the following statement upon hearing of Don's passing:

"On behalf of the National NewsMedia Council, we were saddened to hear of Don McCurdy’s death today.

Don was the last executive director of the Ontario Press Council and it was his initial push to create a litigious-free national news media dispute resolution organization that ultimately led to the creation to the NNC. On a personal level, I will always be grateful for his generosity and loyalty during the transition period and then his continued support of the new organization right up to his death. The Canadian news media has lost a good friend."

To read more about Don's life and career, we encourage you to read this piece in the Waterloo Region Record


Information update

We have short NNC information blurbs to promote your membership and let readers know how to get in touch with us. We would appreciate if you include one, along with our organization's logo either in your printed publication or on your website. A high-resolution version can be downloaded on our website.       

{Your news organization) is a member of the National NewsMedia Council, which deals with complaints about news stories, opinion columns or photos. See the NNC website at or call 1-844-877-1163 for more information.


Have a complaint about news, opinion, or photos? See the National NewsMedia Council website at or call 1-844-877-1163 for information.

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