IPSO Blog: Annual Statements 2018

Standards Officer Rosemary Douce on 2018’s publisher compliance statements.

This week IPSO published its 2018 annual statements. Submitted each year by all regulated publishers, these documents are a public statement on journalistic standards required as part of our legally enforceable contracts with members.

There is no set format for an annual statement, so our publishers − who range from national newspapers to specialist trade magazines − can submit their statement in whichever style they feel best suits them. However, they must include a list of each publisher’s titles, information about each publisher’s complaints process, and the steps taken in response to any upheld complaints to make sure they are not repeated.

The statements provide an interesting insight into the huge variety of publishers which IPSO regulates. Did you know that Orkney Media Group dates back to the days of Lord Nelson and the Battle of the Nile? Or that one of our members’ offices has been firebombed – a stark reminder from new member Sunday World that “reporters carry out their jobs at no little risk”. The statement from the Congleton Chronicle is always chatty and entertaining and a real insight into the important role of a local newspaper in the wider community.

One of the main requirements of an annual statement is to address actions taken in response to upheld complaints to prevent the same issue occurring again. Some complaints raise serious concerns and it is important for IPSO to see evidence of publishers taking these seriously and endeavouring not to repeat them.

For example, after a breach of the Code when reporting on suicide, JPI Media held a briefing with local teams and developed a training module in association with the Samaritans which was mandatory for all staff. The Telegraph always produces a monthly bulletin for journalists and holds briefings with editorial staff, in order to identify errors and lessons to be learnt.

It is always encouraging to see positive feedback about IPSO-run training sessions in the statements. Midland News Association ran some sessions last year and said they stimulated a lot of debate and were well received by those attending. Iliffe Media Group said the training they took part in was useful in reminding staff about IPSO’s pre-publication advice service.

It was great to see lots of publishers mention the IPSO mark, a visual symbol that IPSO regulated publications can use in print and online to show their commitment to transparency and professional standards. Caerphilly Media (one of IPSO’s newest members), Faversham House Ltd (publisher of trade titles including Desalination and Water Reuse), and Bauer Consumer Media all reported they were now using the mark.

We use the knowledge gathered from the annual statements, along with data from daily work with complaints, wider monitoring of the media landscape and engagement with groups interested in coverage of particular issues to track patterns and identify areas of potential concern to provide targeted interventions to raise press standards.

The statements also help us to identify publishers who may benefit from additional support. In the last year we have helped members to improve their complaints-handling procedures, worked on developing compliance manuals, and delivered training in newsrooms from Glasgow to Jersey − all services which IPSO provides its members for free.

You can view the 2018 annual statements here.