IPSO Blog: What is editorial discretion?

Communications & Public Affairs Officer Hanno Fenech on “editorial discretion”

As the largest regulator of newspapers and magazines in the UK, every year IPSO receives several complaints which relate to “editorial discretion”. These are complaints about a newspaper not covering a particular story or issue which a complainant feels they should. 

Editorial discretion means simply that editors are the ones responsible for deciding what news to cover (or not), what stories to feature, the prominence afforded to coverage of a subject, and what content generally makes it into their publication. The selection of material for publication is considered by IPSO to be a matter for discretion by individual editors, so long as the Editors’ Code of Practice, the set of rules followed by IPSO-regulated publishers, has not otherwise been breached. 

It may sound obvious, but a newspaper or magazine’s freedom to choose what it is they want to write about is one of the fundamental rights they exercise in their free expression. 

Of course, while this is vitally important to freedom of speech, the editorial content of regulated publishers is still required to abide by the rules of the Editors’ Code, which requires high standards of accuracy, protects individual rights such as privacy, and upholds the inherit public interest in freedom of expression. 

IPSO’s regulatory remit extends to all editorial content published by regulated publishers, regardless of whether it is online or in print. “Editorial content” means the news, comment and reportage for which an editor is responsible (as opposed to advertisements or commercial content). It could even include things like audio, video and live blogs. In some cases even user-generated comments, such as those posted by readers under an online news article, fall under IPSO’s remit (more on that here). 

Where mistakes are made by a newspaper or magazine, IPSO offers recourse and ensures high standards are maintained. IPSO accepts complaints about potential breaches of the Editors’ Code of Practice appearing in print or online. 

Editorial discretion is the right of a newspaper to decide what news it carries and to create content free of interference. IPSO regulation makes that content accountable to the highest standards in journalism under the Editors’ Code. This ensures a trusted, thriving, free and responsible press, reinforced by independent, effective regulation.


Originally published 3 October 2020.