As iMediaEthics wrote earlier this year, the UK Sun announced the appointment of its first ombudsman in years, Philippa Kennedy. News Corp.-owned The Sun hadn’t had an ombudsman since 2006 and named Kennedy as part of its “commitment to our readers” to “maintain the bond of trust with its readership.”
The standards commitment was made in February of this year with the launch of the UK Sun on Sunday. News Corp.’s News International registered Sun on Sunday domains the same month it closed its Sunday paper the News of the World amidst growing claims of phone hacking, as iMediaEthics wrote at the time.
iMediaEthics asked Kennedy about her plans for the role and what issues she’ll handle. Kennedy, who began as ombudsman in September, said her primary role is “handling PCC Complaints,” but that she “may be writing articles in the future.” She explained in an email to iMediaEthics:
“It’s a very time-consuming job requiring reports from the newsdesk and reporters and trying to answer points raised by the PCC.
“I am a former news editor and know that mistakes can be made when people are up against deadlines, but I have been impressed with the speed of responses to my queries and the diligence of reporters’ work. They clearly don’t like making mistakes and when a complaint is raised against them, they are harder on themselves than anyone else could possibly be.”
Accoridng to Kennedy, she is currently handling “about 30 outstanding PCC complaints at various stages in their resolution or otherwise.”
“I have yet to handle a PCC judgement that finds against The Sun, but I expect it will happen in due course,” Kennedy told iMediaEthics.
In terms of independence, Kennedy told iMediaEthics:
“I try to remain detached and unbiased and for that reason work mainly from home although I need to be in the office for at least one or two days a week to speak to the Managing Editor and clarify the occasional matter of policy or to find out what stance the newspaper wants to take on an issue that could be interpreted in different ways.
“My first responsibility is to the reader, however, and I’m glad to say that they are beginning to email the Ombudsman with their complaints, after the dedicated email address was published. It is usually tagged onto the end of a clarification so that people will get to know about me.”
For example, an Oct. 21 Sun clarification notes that “the Sun ombudsman will correct significant errors” with Kennedy’s email address.
According to Kennedy, she reports “to the Managing Editor. Ultimately of course I report to the Editor Dominic Mohan but it is the Managing Editor’s job to deal with complaints and he appointed me.”
Kennedy added that “so far, the newspaper has printed all the clarifications I have suggested (or negotiated with the PCC).”
iMediaEthics also asked Kennedy if she plans to join international ombudsman group the Organization of News Ombudsmen. Kennedy said she hasn’t joined yet but might in the future. “I’m certainly keeping an eye on its website and find it useful to keep me in touch of global opinion on the subject,” she said.
UPDATE: 11/1/2012 1:57 PM EST: Added info about News Corp.
UPDATE: 11/16/2012 2:12 PM EST: Added info about to whom Kennedy reports.