Gazette to be held accountable by National Newsmedia Council.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 9th, 2017



The Gazette is a member of the National NewsMedia Council

We became members when the organization it was known as the Ontario Press Council – at that time we were one of the earlier online newspaper accepted into member unanimously by the Board of Directors at that time.

We pay an annual fee to be members – it isn’t cheap.

The National NewsMedia Council (NNC) does not impose its own code of practice. Instead, it expects members to adhere to their own or some generally-accepted code of journalistic standards, practice and ethics.

nnc logo with glassesIn considering a complaint, the NNC has regard for a cascading set of criteria that includes the news organization’s own code of conduct; generally-accepted national and regional journalistic standards; standards such as those of the Canadian Press and the Canadian Association of Journalists; such legal or ethical guidelines as appropriate; and any other considerations deemed valid by the Board.

The NNC promotes media ethics and responsible journalism through our mediation services, pre-publication advising, and outreach.

One of the prime purposes of the NNC is the provision of a place people can go to and air complaints they have about how media has treated them.

This is a valuable public service that is needed – media have to be held to account.

The NNC works diligently to get both sides of the story and they issue a statement that can be either:

An upheld complaint.
Dismissed complaints.
Dismissed with reservations.
Resolved due to corrective action taken.

As NNC members the Gazette is expected to publish any decision made to the Council.

NNC landing

National Newsmedia Council advertisement that promotes the purpose of the Council.

In the past several months there have been two complains made to the NNC about material published in the Gazette.

Both relate to the closing of two of the city’s seven high schools – and in each case the matter came from the Bateman community.

The fist was a complaint that we violated our privacy policy – which we in fact did. We published the name of an individual who has chosen a pen name rather than his own in a comment he made related to a Gazette article.

We later learned that the individual was a member of a Board of Education Advisory committee who we felt was hiding behind the pen name rather than letting readers of his comments know where his thinking was comment from.

We were asked by the NNC to apologize for braking our own rules which we did and that matter was closed.

Since then the Gazette has announced that it is in the process of changing its privacy policy; quite what form that policy change will take has not yet been determined.

We want to provide a form for people to air their views. We regret that frequently some people use a pen name and attempt to”game” the process. A number of news organizations have given up on a comments section. We are not prepared to go quite that far.

The second complaint is much more complex – it relates to a matter of fairness and just how much we did to ensure that we were fair and complete in our reporting.

The prime concern appears to be that we did not name the person we were reporting about but that anyone could read between the lines and determine who it was. Perception and reality are not the same thing.

Unhappy parentIn our conversations with staff at the NNC they understand and appreciate that the closing of a high school is a very emotional issue and feelings come to the surface quickly. The situation at Bateman is very, very hard for many of the parents who have children in the Community Pathways Program to deal with.

We won’t comment further on this until the National Newsmedia Council has issued their decision, which we are advised will be before the end of the month. We hope at that time that we can name the individual, publish the content of the complaint and the Council decision which we will abide by.

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3 comments to Gazette to be held accountable by National Newsmedia Council.

  • Lynn

    It’s a beautiful sunny late summer day. I begin my morning reading a lot of online papers from different cities around the world. I enjoy learning about things happening beyond our small Burlington issues bubble, and benefit from reading different perspectives on the same topics. I like reading the comment sections – often some great commentary, witty remarks and fun back and forth. Sometimes I join in. Some papers require the use of real names, others do not, some publications have cancelled commenting altogether. I can see all sides, but do respect that some people would not feel comfortable commenting with their own name – not necessarily because they are writing something shameful, but because they don’t feel like being personally attacked for their comments.

    This morning of course a lot of the news beyond our tiny speck on the map is bad. The situation in Florida is horrific. And right on top of Houston, Mexico, the new hurricanes arriving on the heels of all this, not to mention Korea. There is a also a lot of good in any tragic story though, and these stories of people helping each other, people going way beyond what most of us would do to aid strangers, people coming together who yesterday would probably never have given each other the time of day, are inspiring and hopeful. Today I was reading a lot in the Washington Post. A few stories really caught my attention.

    One story was about fear. The fear in Florida has been building all week, to the point that the anxiety is now unbearable. The article mentioned a statistic that caused more fear in me than any of the stories about the impending destruction by the hurricane: “Anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common mental-health concern for American college students, a study in 2016 by Pennsylvania State University asserted. Fear is in the water these days, spread with a new and viral efficiency on social media into everyone’s homes and everyone’s pockets at all hours, every day.”

    This is what we should really be scared about. As a parent, my most important job is to raise my children to be resilient, to help ease their anxieties and put things in perspective for them. To make them feel confident and sure of themselves, as well as seeing all the good in the world, even among the bad. This is the only way they can be happy and enjoy life, even when bad things do happen, which is part of life too. As an adult, I feel I can put my own mind to ease a bit because I am able to put things in perspective somewhat (though I must keep reminding myself to actually do this). But I fear for children and teens and young adults who aren’t able to yet. We need to be actively thinking about our actions and what we can do to help young people through these anxiety-ridden times. There are over 5500 high school students in Burlington. It is not a stretch to say that many hundreds of them are likely suffering from anxiety, and some to an extent that they cannot cope. This is incredibly sad and alarming.

    I therefore find myself wondering (again) what the result is for the affected young people when we have a group of people continually shouting that moving from one school to another school down the street will cause irreparable harm to them, and that nothing the school board can offer them – new improved facilities, parental and SEAC involvement on building purpose built areas with the newest technology and design, the help of experts to make the transition go smoothly – can possibly work. So if the move does happen, the students have now been told for months from their own parents and community that this is going to be terrible. And that the thousands of students in the rest of the city, hundreds with their own anxieties and troubles, and the future students of the affected schools and all schools should not benefit from these plans either, because right now, for what is comparably a very small number of students, it’s nothing but bad news, and something to fear.

    Another story that caught my eye was about a 19 year old college student in the U.S. who died, hours after his father was fired by Fox News after it was revealed the father sent embarrassing/inappropriate photos of himself to women. Police are investigating the boy’s death. Whatever the cause of death ends up being, it hits you like a ton of bricks to consider that in the reporting of what the father did or didn’t do, and the widespread mocking that must have ensued all over social media, he had a 19 year old son who did nothing wrong, but had to somehow deal with seeing his father be humiliated, reading comments, knowing people knew who he was, and it must have caused incredible anxiety to this young person.

    This causes me to wonder about people who spend all of their time attacking individual people online and elsewhere, with no regard for the fact that those people they are attacking have children who are reading and hearing this. How does that affect those children and youths? How does seeing their own parent being treated badly and perhaps being upset affect them? Isn’t their mental health important? It’s incredible that here, those who are not going online and participating in discussions that are nothing more than unsubstantiated attacks surrounded by completely false statements are then accused of “going underground”, in a bizarre attempt to find fault with NOT participating in this. And now I read that the Gazette is being officially blamed for things they wrote about it.

    We would all do well to count our blessings as we sit in the sunshine on a beautiful September day here in Burlington. Our anger at the school closing issue should be directed at the appropriate places: the Ministry for their lack of funding and their poor policies, the school board for going about this backwards and opening a new school without at the same time considering that this should have meant also closing schools if necessary all at once, or else not opening the new school at all. However, the people at the school board today cannot go back and undo that, nor can they get funding to keep 7 schools open as is. We need to be involved in giving our input on what we want to see going forward, if all goes as they plan. And at the end of the day, the most important thing is the health (mental and physical) of our young people, and all people. At some point we need to think about how to start showing them the good that can come out of all this too. Because there is a lot of good, for many current and future young people. We owe it to them to make it as good as we can and to do what we can to help them put it all in perspective, and to gain the skills they need for their future happiness and health. Their future depends on it.

  • Glenda D

    Brian, your right…games and comments being played under pen names….Gazette is right in it’s reporting.

  • Brian Jones

    I realize code of ethics and these dsys privacy policies must be followed. In due course the NNC will comment.
    It is too bad games and comments are played under pen names.
    Let’s face it though, the Gazette is the only venue covering Burlington with candor and adversarial articles