Members' Update: November, 2016

Dear NNC colleague,

Please find below our November Newsletter which will bring you up to date on your council as we head into our second full year of operations.

Many thanks, John Fraser

Report from the CEO

The National NewsMedia Council enters its second full year of operations with renewed confidence in its mandate and goals. The challenge of the first year was to get itself established and respected amongst its founding print members from across the country, most of whom were members of the old provincial press councils. We also had to angle our way into new areas such as magazines and digital news media. Generally speaking, I would say things have gone well. We have been accepted by the print media in the country, even as it goes through the dramatic challenges and changes necessitated by the public’s changing reading habits, have signed up important weekly and monthly publications in the magazine industry and got started with the digital media.

The goals for the second year are quite clear, apart from maintaining the achievements so far. We have to begin making much more of a purposeful impact on the digital media explosion and we are developing strategies to meet that end. We already have some interesting new members and they tell us we have been useful. One of our key arguments is to point out that being able to prove that the news media world in Canada is effectively self-governing in terms of ethics and fair play. This will be crucial as media and reading patterns change and the digital media finds itself increasingly exposed to public and governmental scrutiny. Two previous royal commissions in print media does not mean there can’t be one into digital media!

 As well, when the NNC was being founded, one of the key aspirations involved education. By this, we believe it means education on all sides, ourselves included. Pat Perkel (our executive director and co-ordinator of complaints), Brent Jolly (our new director of communications) and I will go almost anywhere we are invited to talk about our work and the general realm of media ethics. Earlier this year, for example, Pat and I did a seminar for TVOntario’s “The Agenda” and throughout November all three of us will be participating in two-hour weekly seminars at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre for Global Affairs. It’s an interesting graduate programme at the Munk Centre, which trains scholars in specialized fields who want to learn the ins and outs of journalism to further their own research work, or to publicize it more effectively.  It will be an experiment on both sides and I will report on how it went in the next newsletter.


The NNC celebrated its first anniversary by holding an in-house council meeting in Toronto; that included the vice chair (west), Shelley Chrest,  from Vancouver Island, and the vice chair (east), Miller Ayre from Newfoundland. This was the final council meeting presided over by our great chair, the Hon. Frances Lankin, newly minted as an independent member of the Canadian Senate. Frances resigned from the chair and was succeeded by Shelley Chrest, the last chair of the British Columbia Press Council, and this has established what we hope will be a regular pattern of the NNC chair moving around the country, with vice chairs from representative regions.

I was glad to have the chance to thank Frances for all she had done in getting the NNC up and running, and for her strong support of me in the new position of president and CEO. I have no doubt whatsoever she will make a meaningful, and immediate, contribution in Ottawa.


Complaints report

Since September, 13 complaints from St Catharines, Sudbury, Calgary, Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa, and Merritt B.C. have been filed about issues including inaccuracy, lack of balance, misleading language or information and use of language.

One complaint was abandoned, three were declined because of a stale date or repeat issue, and four were dismissed after investigation by staff showed no breach of journalistic standards. Five are still under investigation.

Of the 61 phone calls logged, 37 were about newspaper delivery issues. Calls come from cities across Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, which may be a good sign that papers are carrying NNC membership information!

Many of the calls we receive are complaints from readers. They are unhappy about children in a photo of the Trailer Park Boys whiskey launch, or the protest over the baseball team from Cleveland’s name, or the anniversary coverage of the photo the young Kurdi washing ashore. One caller doesn’t want murder stories on the front page, and another complained about an inaccurate headline. Each of these calls is welcomed as an opportunity to serve our members by explaining how the media works.

Other calls are about what readers want in their paper. The list is as diverse as the public:  more NASCAR, Sunshine Girls, and stories about special or personal causes, local veterans, WikiLeaks, or hydro rates.

We’ve been asked to prevent publishing of “far right” opinion, to supply the dates of the Panama Papers series, to fix a bar code that was scanning the paper at the wrong price, and to put in a holiday stop for a subscriber. Credit for good humour goes to the woman who complained to us that after moving to a retirement home, she got the refund on her subscription balance in the form of a cheque to her estate.

Obviously we can’t please all callers, but we do our best to offer readers education and information.

- Patricia Perkel, Executive Director and Complaints Co-Ordinator


Introducing: Brent Jolly, our new director of communications

My first three months with the National NewsMedia Council can be described as ‘fulfilling’. Since August, I have had the opportunity to dive deep into our organization’s history and to witness, first hand, the integration of the former provincial press councils into a single national body. Exciting times!

As the NNC’s director of communications, I have been working hard to ensure our organization stays true to our roots, while also ensuring that we are responsive to the changing needs and challenges of Canada’s current media ecosystem. So far, I've been helping extend the reach of the Council through social media, as well as helping my wise colleagues to craft our 'road ahead' strategy. I believe strongly in the idea of digital community building, and it is an ideal I am eager to bring to life with the NNC.  

If you have suggestions on directions you think we should take on this ‘road ahead’, please don’t hesitate to send me an email to:  

Working in tandem with our excellent leadership team, consisting of President and CEO John Fraser, Executive Director Pat Perkel, as well as our outstanding board of directors, I have no doubt that the second year of the NNC will be one to remember. Stay tuned. 


Looking Forward - To Our Next Issue...

In the next issue of our newsletter, you will find a summary and photos from our adventures at the Munk School, as well updates on the important work we are doing. As well, we will provide a preview of our annual general meeting, which will be held on December 8 in Toronto.


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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