Update from the NNC’s complaints desk: February 17, 2022

Below are several complaints that the National NewsMedia Council received and addressed through education over the past few weeks.

Satirical column falls flat for reader – distinguishing opinion from news

An individual complained that an opinion column about attitudes toward COVID vaccination was insensitive and promoted hateful views. The NNC noted that the role of opinion writing is varied, and may include seeking to persuade, entertain, or enlighten readers. 

An ordinary reading of the article in question indicated that it was satirical in nature. In this case, irony and exaggeration were used as a means to provide important reflection on a topical issue, and it was clear that statements were not intended to be taken literally. The NNC found no grounds for a complaint about a breach of journalistic standards. (Case ID: 2022-04)

Reporting on serious criminal charges

An individual complained that articles published by several news organizations reported on sexual assault charges against him despite the fact that he has not been convicted. The NNC explained that the articles all report charges but do not indicate that he has been found guilty of the allegations against him. 

Generally speaking, reporting on such cases is in the public interest and an important part of the open court system in Canada that includes accountable police and judiciary. The NNC noted that it is standard practice for news organizations to report on serious criminal charges and to follow up on the outcomes of those charges when they become available. (Case ID: 2022-06)

Political insight and points of view on local politics – varied roles of opinion writing

An individual complained that an opinion column showed bias in favour of a particular  politician. The NNC explained that opinion columns have various roles, which may include seeking to persuade or simply to inform readers from a particular perspective. 

A review of the column indicated that it reflected on the topic of political branding in the run-up to the next municipal election. While readers are free to disagree with its view, this does not indicate a breach of journalistic standards. (Case ID: 2022-10)