What is a News Ombudsman?

According to the Organisation of News Ombudsmen (ONO), a news ombudsman is a person who:

… receives and investigates complaints from newspaper readers or listeners or viewers of radio and television stations about accuracy, fairness, balance and good taste in news coverage. He or she recommends appropriate remedies or responses to correct or clarify news reports.

Having a news ombudsman is one way in which a news house can monitor its own levels of fairness, accuracy and balance. Through their ombudsman’s engagement with readers, viewers and listeners, and response to their feedback, news providers get to gauge how their reporting is being received by the general public, and to make adjustments accordingly.

Most reader ombudsmen act in an advisory capacity, providing direction and advice for news reports, or even hosting forums through which the public gets to engage their news providers.

A reader ombudsman also helps to create a certain level of accessibility to the newsroom. They are an essential link between news consumers and news providers, playing the role of mediator when necessary. An ombudsman also helps to keep news providers accountable to readers, by keeping public concerns at the forefront of discussions. If there are complaints about the way the news is being presented, or if something comes across as in poor taste, the reader ombudsman is the one who resolves these or passes them on to the relevant authority.

Organisation of News Ombudsmen