What kind of complaints does the NNC consider?
Complaints can be as varied as the content of the newspaper or website.
Generally speaking, we consider complaints about accuracy, journalistic standards and ethics in gathering and reporting the news.
Practically speaking, this means we consider complaints including alleged errors of fact, plagiarism, failure to give opportunity to respond to criticism, and bias based on sexism, racism or other discrimination.
Complaints can be unique, or can cover more than one issue. The four broad categories below will illustrate some of the standards that apply to areas that can give rise to complaints. You may find it helpful in filing your complaint to read some of the decisions listed under each group.
Accuracy – Journalistic standards require a news story to be factually accurate, including identification of individuals and quotes. The article should acknowledge the ‘other side’ of a case, and allow opportunity for response. Photo captions should accurately identify the scene, people or location, and the headline of a story should be supported by the information in the story itself.
Opinion – Opinion and editorial writers are allowed to use strong language and express unpopular views. The NNC will only consider a complaint where the opinion includes factual error or ‘crosses the line’ in language. Letters to the editor are not generally considered. Newspapers have the right to edit them for length, clarity, legal or other reasons, or may chose not to publish it at all. A complaint may be considered if an edit changes the meaning of a letter to the editor.
Sensitive issues – The NNC may consider a complaint about sensitive issues such as use of language, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, or bias against a social or political group. Reporting on courts, sexual assault or minors can be sensitive and may involve legal restrictions. Publicity can be embarrassing, but the courts have rules that balance the need to maintain a public legal system with the need for a fair trial and protection of victims. People who have chosen a public life, such as politicians and celebrities, can expect more public scrutiny than a private individual.
Attribution – Journalists give credit for the work of others. They name sources in all but exceptional cases, and can report on people and information in the public realm, including using public information from social media. At the same time they adhere to copyright law. Journalistic standards require giving credit for a photo, a quote, an idea or research quoted in the story.