Organization of News Ombudsmen
The Organization of News Ombudsmen (ONO) is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1980. ONO membership comprises various news ombudsman, and readers' representatives from around the world. Both ombudsman and readers' representatives are individuals who work for a professional news organization, and handle complaints that are received or come their attention. The ombudsman or representative attempts to find mutually satisfactory solutions for all parties involved.
Purposes of the ONO
The official web site of ONO states that its purposes are:
- To help the journalism profession achieve and maintain high ethical standards in news reporting, thereby enhancing its own credibility among the people it serves
- To establish and refine standards for the job of news ombudsman or reader representative
- To help in the wider establishment of the position of news ombudsman on newspapers and elsewhere in the media
- To provide a forum for exchanging experiences, information and ideas among its members
- To develop contacts with publishers, editors, press councils and other professional organizations, provide speakers for special interest groups and respond to media inquiries
Who Can Join the ONO
The ONO states that it welcomes all news ombudsmen, readers' representatives, readers' advocates, and public editors. Annual membership dues are $150.
The Organization's Annual Conference
One of the ways that the ONO helps various professional news ombudsmen is by having an annual conference where members can share their experiences about difficult situations. This conference is held over two or two and a half days and is held in a member's city. The people who attend the conference engage in a discussion of news practices that are, or may be, important to news ombudsmen. The topics that are discussed are usually of an ethical nature, because news ombudsmen are more often than not concerned with the ethics of reporting the news. Some of the topics that have been discussed include coverage of minorities, coverage of sex crimes, the ombudsman's relationship to the news department, the use of anonymous sources, invasion of privacy, plagiarism, conflicts of interest.
Conference speakers have included David Shaw, Los Angeles Times media critic; British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper; Ben Bradlee, former Washington Post editor; ethicist Michael Josephson;Dr. Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies; and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson.
ONO's 2009 conference was held May 10-13, 2009, in Washington, D.C., at the offices of National Public Radio, The Washington Post and the Washington Bureau of The New York Times. The 2010 conference will be held May 12-15, 2010, at Reuters Institute, Oxford University, Oxford, England.
Besides attending the ONO's annual conference, many members of the ONO often participate in small mini conferences which are conducted by four-way conference telephone calls throughout the year. The ONO's central office helps members by coordinating the conference calls. During the conference calls members can talk about problems they are having and swap view points on a wide range of topics that news ombudsmen deal with on a regular basis. The goal of the conference calls is to providing participants with support, counsel and problem-solving ideas.