Guardian Expands Handling of Reader Complaints with Review Panel

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Readers upset about coverage from the Guardian and Observer now have another way to complain.

In late November, the Guardian added a new review panel of three to “work in concert with the readers’ editor.” The panel members are external ombudsmen John Willis, Geraldine Proudler and Elinor Goodman. Willis has been external ombudsman since 2006, and also served as external ombudsman from 1997 to 2002.

“The appointment of the review panel will further strengthen Guardian News & Media’s tried and tested readers’ editor system by providing complainants with the opportunity for a review,” Liz Forgan, chair of The Scott Trust, said in a statement sent to iMediaEthics by the Guardian. “We continue to discuss future regulation with the new industry regulator and other relevant parties, and will review our position on an ongoing basis.”

The Guardian already has a readers’ editor, Chris Elliott, and the Observer has Stephen Pritchard, both of whom handle complaints. The Guardian has had the position of an independently appointed readers’ editor for almost two decades. The newspaper also has an external ombudsman for “substantial grievances or matters concerning the Guardian‘s journalistic integrity,” it said earlier this year.

The three members of the Guardian‘s panel will review any complaints appealing the readers’ editor decision. The panel will also add a complaints officer.

“The panel’s remit is to offer complainants whose complaints have not been resolved to their satisfaction through their dealings with the readers’ editors of the Guardian and its Sunday paper the Observer the chance to have their complaints adjudicated by the review panel,” the Guardian reported.

The Guardian‘s readers editor Elliott also wrote about the new review panel explaining how it will work:

“Before the Guardian’s review panel will consider any matter, a reader must have submitted a complaint to the readers’ editor. If the reader is unhappy with the decision of the readers’ editor, they will be sent details of how to complain to the review panel, including a form to enable the reader to set out their reasons.”

Elliott added that complaints will be reviewed against the Guardian‘s editorial code only.

The review panel hopes to resolve complaints in 28 days, when possible, and “can recommend a range of remedies, including corrections, alteration or removal of content, deletion, apologies or providing a right of reply,” Elliott reported. All complaints will be tracked and information about complaints will be disclosed “in an annual report.”

The review panel’s terms are published on the Guardian’s website.

The Guardian and the Observer didn’t join the Independent Press Standards Organisation, this September’s replacement to regulatory body the Press Complaints Commission.

In a Sept. 4 editorial, The Guardian said it wouldn’t join IPSO because they want to see how IPSO turns out, pointing out that “the victims of press intrusion, as well as many significant academics, journalists, politicians, lawyers and (to judge from our postbag) readers” want to see whether IPSO becomes ‘something that can command more general confidence’.”

The Guardian said “in some ways, IPSO is an improvement on the old PCC” but “the way IPSO came into being has not been satisfactory” and the Guardian is concerned about press control over IPSO.


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Guardian Expands Handling of Reader Complaints with Review Panel

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