Organizational Ombudsman Practices in Media Houses
Organizational Ombudsman Practices in Media Houses Siromani Dhungana Lecturer (Journalism and Mass Communication) Tribhuvan University Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com
What is an ombudsman?• An ombudsman is, principally, a neutral and fair arbitrator who handles complaints of audience and tries to find a common way out. Government agencies and private sector and other firms can appoint ombudsman.• According to Organization of News Ombudsmen, the first ombudsman was appointed in 1809 in Sweden to handle citizens’ complaints about the government. The ombudsman is Scandinavian in origin.
Media Ombudsmen• The Media, or News, Ombudsman is familiar to many people. The News Ombudsman’s primary objective is to promote transparency within his or her news organization. This Ombudsman can receive and investigate complaints about published news items on behalf of members of the public and then recommend the most suitable course of action to resolve the issues raised. The News Ombudsman is an independent officer acting in the best interests of news consumers. He or she explains the roles and obligations of journalism to the public and acts as a mediator between the expectations of the public and the responsibilities of journalists. - From: International Ombudsman Association | http://www.ombudsassociation.org/media/frequently-asked-questions
Ombudsman may be called as:• Some newspapers use titles such as:• Readers’ representative• Readers’ advocate• Public editor
Need of ombudsman in media organizations• To monitor accuracy, fairness and balance.• To receive audience complaints• To publish corrections and explanations of the organizations media policy, if required• To make news organization more accessible and accountable to its audience• To increase the awareness of professionalism of journalism• To enhance accountability of concerned news organization
Primary Duties of Media Ombudsman• Work as a bridge between media house and audience regarding published content• Monitoring of news and feature columns, photography and other graphic materials for fairness, accuracy and balance• Ensuring accountable journalism• Investigation of comments and complaints made by audience and obtaining explanations from editors and journalist for readers, viewers or listeners• Encourage media houses to publish correction in case of mistakes• In some cases, ombudsman write article dealing with issues of broad public interest, or with specific grievance
Evolution of Concept of Ombudsman• The concept was in place much earlier in Japan. The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo established a committee in 1922 to receive and investigate reader complaints. Another mass circulation Tokyo paper, The Yomiuri Shimbun, set up a staff committee in 1938 to monitor the paper’s quality.• In 1951 this group became an ombudsman committee which today hears readers’ complaints about the paper and which meets daily with editors. News ombudsmen today are found throughout North and South America, Europe, and parts of the Middle East and Asia.• The first newspaper ombudsman in the U.S. was appointed in June 1967 in Louisville, Kentucky, to serve readers of The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times.• The first Canadian appointment — at The Toronto Star — was in 1972. -From: Organization of News Ombudsmen (ONO)
Connection between Ombudsman and Audience• Media has social responsibility and it should be more responsible to play the role of public sphere• Media organization should appoint ombudsman to ensure good of the society because media is not just other business• An ombudsman helps to explain the news-gathering process to general public• Pubic can express their dissatisfaction and discontent to the media through ombudsman• Ombudsman bridges gap between public and media• Ombudsman is important for maintain notion of accountability in media
Ombudsman and AccountabilityThree types of accountability:• Assigned Accountability• Contracted Accountability• Self-imposed Accountability• Wisdom Tettey has distinguished between assigned accountability, where legal and formal regulatory systems define what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for the media, and contracted accountability, where a contract is entered into between the media and its public regarding media performance, and self-imposed accountability, and where the media evolve and enforce standards of behaviour voluntarily. - From: UNESCO
Ombudsman in Nepal• In Nepal, there is no such mechanism to address readers concerns about newspapers straying away from truth.• Press Council Nepal is a watchdog mechanism of media sector but its independence has always been questioned due to political interferences and other systematic problems.• After emergence of Television channels, importance of ombudsman has further been realized. Many in the audience feel that weekly newspapers and most of the TV channel have lost their sense of social responsibility.
Media should be liable• Media provides much of our understanding. Now media has become part of everyday life of people. So it is audiences right to put their queries because media should be liable to the audience. Public trust is an important factor for media to gain reputation. Media should not deviate from the principle of objective reportage. In Nepal, press freedom is guaranteed in constitution but fairness is always in question and it should be addressed through self-imposed watchdog mechanism like ombudsman
Conclusion• News media should be truthful, accurate, fair, objective and relevant. The most beautiful regulation of media industry is self-regulation and creating a mechanism for ombudsmen is a step toward that direction.
Thank YouPrepared bySiromani DhunganaResearcher, Journalist & Media EducatorKathmandu, NepalEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com(Kathmandu-based copy editor Amendra Pokhrel has provided assistance to prepare the paper.He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org )