Members' Update: September, 2016

Dear NNC colleague,

Below please find your September edition of our exciting newsletter. We hope you enjoy getting up to speed with all our recent activities!

Kind regards, John Fraser

Report from the CEO

The National NewsMedia Council is now one year old. Officially. Although operations did not really get fully underway until January 1st of this year with the appointment of a full-time Executive Director and Complaints Co-ordinator, the council had become duly incorporated on September 1st and we started processing initial complaints with the transition help of Don McCurdy, the last executive director of the old Ontario Press Council.

There have been four council meetings since then, typically held around noon EST, to accommodate all the different time zones across the country as our council members range from the two great islands who “guard” the eastern and western approaches to the country and continent (Vancouver Island and Newfoundland). These meetings are done either be tele-conferencing or old-fashioned phone hookups. The exception was our most recent meeting on September 22nd when most council members travelled to Toronto for the first face-to-face meeting. And that was for a special event to honour a special person.

Since I last wrote, our founding chair, the Honourable Frances Lankin, has become one of the first new-style senators and her resignation as chair became effective after she presided over that last council meeting. She has been succeeded as chair by Ms. Shelley Chrest, the last chair of the British Columbia Press Council and one of two founding vice chairs of the NNC (along with Miller Ayre of Newfoundland).

At this council meeting, by the way, I was able to pay tribute to Frances for her “foundational” good works and to wish her well in the Senate. She has been an amazingly positive force during our early days. The same can be said for Shelley Chrest who managed the transition to a national body with equal aplomb and who makes sure we don’t get into a Toronto-centric mode – ever!

These changes necessitated the need for an active vice chair for central Canada and the council was very happy to elect Joanne De Laurentiis to that position. A founding NNC council member, Joanne was also a steady hand at the old Ontario Press Council and she brings great skills in governance policy and management to our institution.

Joanne was pivotal working with Executive Director Pat Perkel in getting our governing By Law as well as our crucial Governance Policy Manual through many iterations. These were both passed at the council meeting on Sept. 22nd.

We have still much work to do in getting our organization known and up to the mark we set for it ourselves.  We have had a good start though. The speed with which we can process complaints (see the complaints report below) has dramatically increased from the record of all the past press councils. We have helped to avert at least two serious and costly legal proceedings. We dealt with tricky issues that bedevil all responsible news media organizations, of which a council ruling on climate change was typical and also generated news of its own. We have moved to less expensive offices and cut costs to better represent a small but vital organization that intends to make a difference to the state of media ethics and education.

And talking about education, part of our mandate is to present the world of ethical journalism to public forums and we have done so now in a variety of ways, with more coming up. We conducted a seminar for TVOntario a few months ago, Pat Perkel and myself will be leading three seminars on media ethics at the Munk School’s special journalism programme in November and I will be leading discussions on today’s journalism challenges to members of the Trudeau Foundation at their annual gathering in Ottawa, also in November. And that’s just the start. In age of considerable challenge and turmoil in our industry, the greatest contribution we feel the NNC can give our members is the kind of support that reinforces the difference between responsible journalism and social media.

We have also started low cost links with international press council organizations in order to share information and practices, as well as learn from others. A key partner here is the Australian Press Council which has offered national service for over 40 years.

Finally, we are very excited to welcome Brent Jolly to the NNC team as our new community manager and director of communications. He joined us on August 1 from Yahoo Canada News, where he served as both a national news editor and national affairs writer. We are excited by the injection of fresh blood and ideas that he has already brought, and will continue to bring, to the organization. 

That’s enough from me. In the next issue, however, keep an eye out for an announcement of a special and exciting new feature that will help fulfill the NNC’s role as a public educator.  


Complaints report

Over the three months of June through August, 2016, the National NewsMedia Council received a total of 29 written complaints. This represents a notable increase over the 23 complaints NNC received in the five months from January through May of this year.

Working with the complainant and news organization involved, NNC staff helped resolve a total of 14 complaints.  Complaints dealt with a variety of issues including but not limited to: photo and story placement, perceived bias, perceived harmful opinions, accuracy of translation, and a desire for more media coverage on some issues.

Many complaints provided the opportunity for the NNC to educate the complainant on accepted journalistic standards and ethics, and were subsequently closed. In two cases complaints were closed after the news media took corrective action to remedy inaccuracies. Another five complaints received June through August were withdrawn or abandoned. Two such complaints were withdrawn after the news media responded with thorough explanations.

One complaint in this period was adjudicated by Council. That case, 2016-32: Wallace vs Toronto Star, was dismissed by Council.

- Patricia Perkel, Executive Director and Complaints Co-Ordinator


NNC welcomes new chair

Shelley Chrest, the former director and chair of the British Columbia Press Council, and an inaugural vice chair of the NNC, has succeeded the Hon. Frances Lankin as Chair of the year-old council.

Ms. Lankin was named to the Senate of Canada earlier this year. At that time she announced she would step down from her formative role in the country’s first national news media council as soon as her successor could be named. The change was part of a quarterly meeting by members of the council on Sept. 22.

In addition, Joanne De Laurentiis, the former President and CEO of the Investment Funds Institute of Canada (IFIC), was elected a new vice chair (central) of the organization. Moreover, the highly-accomplished former immigration judge Ann Dillon was elected a new public council member.


Meeting of the Members 

On Thursday, September 22, NNC members from across the country gathered at our swanky new offices on Front Street East. This was the first time that the former heads of several provincial press councils ever met face-to-face.  

The dividends of being able to host this meeting were huge. Not only were we able to pass our organization's official bylaws, but we also approved our institutional governance policy manual. In addition, we were welcomed for an informal working-lunch session on 'due process' by the Honourable Patrick Lesage, the former chief justice of the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario. It was an extremely informative session that will serve us well in the future as we strive to provide effective, and fair, mediation of editorial complaints from citizens.   

Lastly, it was a wonderful occasion to provide a formal send off to our tireless and devoted inaugural chair, Senator Frances Lankin. As captured in the picture above (credit: Tim Shoults from Glacier Media), Miller Ayer, the former chair of the Atlantic Press Council provides Senator Lankin with a parting gift for her years of committed service, which has helped to make the NNC a reality.

We look forward to December 8, 2016, for our annual general meeting. 


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 were able to include our organization's logo either/or in your printed publication or on your website. A high-resolution version can be downloaded on our website.       

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