STEP 1: Contact the news organization
Your first step should be to contact the editor or newsroom to discuss your concern. There may be an explanation, or your inquiry may prompt a needed correction. If you’ve already done this, it may still help to consider the issues below before you contact us.
It may help your discussion if you think about these questions:
Accuracy - Do you think a news story contains a factual error; that you were not correctly identified; or were misquoted? Does the caption to a photo accurately describe the scene, people or location? Is the headline of a story an accurate reflection of what the story is about?
Bias - Does the article acknowledge the ‘other side’ of a case? In the case of negative comment about a person, does it provide opportunity for response? Depending on the nature of the article, journalists are not required to conduct deep scientific research on a subject. Standard practice gives journalists the prerogative to choose their sources, and to report arguments proportionate to the relevant evidence so as to avoid false balance. (See Opinion for complaints about columns, editorials, and op-eds.)
Opinion - Do you object to an editorial or opinion column? Opinion and editorial writers are allowed to use strong language and express unpopular views. Is your complaint about an opinion that includes a factual error or ‘crosses the line’ in language? Is it about your letter to the editor? Newspapers have the right to edit your letter for length, clarity, legal or other reasons, or may choose not to publish it at all. An edit is not allowed to change the meaning of your letter.
Sensitive Issues - Is your complaint about reporting on sensitive issues such as courts, sexual assault or minors? The courts have rules that balance the interests of a public process, a fair trial, and protection of victims. Does the story contain racism, sexism, or bias against a social, religious or political group? Journalists take care to avoid publishing material likely to encourage discrimination. Do you feel the story violated privacy? Publicity can be embarrassing, but journalists must weigh individual privacy concerns with the duties of a free press. Respect for personal privacy should not unduly inhibit reporting on matters in the public interest.
Attribution - Is your complaint that you didn’t get credit for a photo, a quote, an idea or research quoted in the story? Did the story use your photograph or material from social media without your consent? Are you concerned about the use of anonymous sources? Journalists give credit for the work of others, name sources in all but exceptional cases, and can report on people and information in the public realm. At the same time, they adhere to copyright law and respect privacy where necessary.
Past Complaints - Before submitting a complaint, we recommend that you take a look at some of the other complaints we've heard that did not have grounds for a breach of journalistic standards. You may find a similar case and an applicable explanation to your question or concern here: Complaints We Heard
STEP 2: Fill out our online form
If there is no resolution with the news media organization and you are still concerned, you may consider filing a complaint with the NNC. Please note that we do not accept anonymous complaints, or complaints where legal action is contemplated or in progress. We reserve the right to publish all of our complaint decisions, along with the names of the individuals who file them.
When filing your complaint, please make sure the online form includes:
- Your name and contact information. We do not accept anonymous complaints!
- The headline, a PDF or link to the specific article for review, along with the date it was published
- Statement and examples from the article of why you think the article contains a specific breach of journalistic standards (see above for the types of journalistic standards we consider)
- Brief explanation of your attempt to resolve the matter with the news media organization before contacting us.
Please note: We will not review a complaint unless you have provided reasonable opportunity for the news media organization to respond to your concern.
We are unable to accept your complaint if any of the above information is missing.
How many complaints can I file at once?
The NNC accepts complaints from individuals about specific allegations of breaches of standards in individual articles. It does not deal with overarching trends in reporting. Please note that the NNC assesses complaints filed by the same individuals or organizations consecutively. Complainants with open complaint files are asked not to submit additional complaints on separate issues. Multiple complaints from separate individuals dealing with the same issue may be assessed together. Abuse of process such as filing numerous complaints concurrently or ‘spamming’ the submission form will not be tolerated and will be grounds for termination of the complaints process.