IPSO Blog: 2020 Annual Statements

Standards Officer Rosemary Douce reviews this year’s annual statements which have now been published on IPSO’s website.

IPSO’s annual statements process monitors our regulated publishers’ compliance with the Editors’ Code of Practice. Publishers are required to submit the statement as part of their contractual agreement with IPSO and must include information on their approach to editorial standards; complaints-handling processes; training processes and record on compliance, including details of any complaints that have been upheld by IPSO’s Complaints Committee within the relevant period.

This year, as part of the 2020 statement process, IPSO asked publishers to voluntarily provide information about how the coronavirus pandemic had affected their operations.

Like most organisations, publishers faced challenges to their usual ways of working, such as learning to use technology like Zoom and Teams to communicate with colleagues, concerns about staff welfare while they were isolated at home, and viewing inquests and court cases remotely, instead of in person. With a shortage of sports and entertainment news to report, local newspapers had to adapt their usual material.

"With sport off the agenda for a period, particularly amateur sport, and no entertainment as such, we introduced regular local history features on our news and sport pages which have been particularly well received." (Rotherham Advertiser).

Some newspaper groups had to suspend some of their titles during lockdown, particularly free ones; and many suffered financial losses, with one describing 2020 as a “financial annus horribilis.” In more positive news, several publishers, particularly in the magazine and B2B sector reported an increase in website traffic and subscriptions.

Many publishers highlighted the important work they had undertaken to support their local communities during lockdown.

JPI Media launched a number of campaigns:

  • Health Heroes - to celebrate the NHS and care staff on the front line of the pandemic;
  • Acts of Kindness - to congratulate the people who went the extra mile to help others;
  • The Big Thank You - to recognise all our key workers;
  • Support Local - to encourage people to support local shops and businesses.

Archant also ran several similar campaigns including:

  • Here To Help – which not only encouraged people to check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours etc, but also provided daily column inches to people and organisations offering their services for free.
  • Home But Not Alone – helping to recruit volunteers to support those in need in the community.

Tindle’s newspapers became a focal point to bring everyone together during the pandemic, and most ran campaigns to encourage community involvement for example, running appeals for volunteers and items for food banks.

"For some newspapers, the appeals were so successful that more volunteers came forward than were needed!" (Tindle Newspapers Ltd)

Community involvement was not just a feature of the larger newspaper groups.

"We have provided weekly Covid news and updates while local news about how our communities have responded during the lockdowns will provide a vital historic reference for the future. More than that our publications have helped galvanise and bring our communities together". (Quest Media Network).

Publishers also recognised the importance of accurate reporting at this time.

"All of our editorial team are aware of their duties in reporting such a sensitive subject, and have been asked to take extra steps to ensure information is verifiable and well sourced, particularly when taking into account the huge amount of misinformation that has spread on social media during the pandemic". (Baylis Media)

"When the stakes are high, scrutiny matters more than ever". (The Spectator)

The annual statements submitted by IPSO’s members for 2020 have now been published on our website.