IPSO Blog: Annual Statements for 2021 Published

IPSO has this week published its annual statements for the period 1 January – 31 December 2021. 

IPSO has this week published its annual statements for the period 1 January – 31 December 2021. Submitted each year by all regulated publishers, annual statements play an important role in ensuring accountability and standards are upheld across IPSO and our membership.

Annual statements provide IPSO with the information necessary to act as an independent regulator. 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.

The submissions we received for 2021 emphasised the enduring impact of Covid-19 on publications. Remote and online working persisted which, as noted in MNA’s annual statement, raised ‘challenges around effective communication and training.’ Adaption and flexibility, with regular video calls and the ‘sharing of information and best practice through email, Slack and internal blogs’ has been crucial to tackling these issues. The role of digital has expanded beyond internal communications.  As Newsquest described in their annual statement, ‘we, like many others, have continued to adapt to industry changes and the needs of our readers. The increase in digital news consumption has continued and we have sought to make our publications accessible on numerous platforms.’

Micro-publications, such as The Recycler, also noted the rise of accessing news of via social media. This rise was accompanied, their annual statement states, by ‘increasing growth and engagement of their digital audience.’ This trend towards digital was mirrored across other local publications, including WYVEX, whose statement noted ‘increased engagement’ as ‘many have told us that The Oban Times has been a must read to know what is going on across the area.’ The Spectator’s sales also rose 16 per cent to 106,905 copies in the period.

Many publications noted their commitment to upholding editorial standards. The IPSO mark is prominently displayed on the Glamorgan Star’s website and social media. Other publications noted their commitment through training and keeping up-to-date with IPSO rulings and guidance. National and local publications, including the Jersey Evening Post, Associated to News UK hold seminars and training sessions. The Telegraph noted that their legal team regularly meet with journalists to discuss and ‘circulates IPSO advisories in a timely manner and where appropriate will send emails which highlight specific issues that have arisen or noteworthy decisions.’ Upheld complaints have also been incorporated into any subsequent face-to-face training sessions. The Sun have also added warnings to relevant cuttings databases, ‘so that staff using cuttings to research future articles on related topics would be aware of the upheld complaints and not repeat previous errors.’

Social media, unsurprisingly, persisted as a theme in training and guidance. Mediahuis encourages its journalists to engage in social media but it is ‘essential that journalists adhere to the same standards… as they would in publishing material in one of our print titles or websites.’ Discussions at Reach have included the importance of sharing corrections via social media ‘if the inaccurate information featured on a social post.’ The Barnsley Chronicle turned to IPSO’s social media guidance, as it ‘has given us something tangible to refer to and our reporters feel much more confident in dealing with complaints about social media than they did a couple of years ago.’

Some of the publications, such as the Sunday World, also highlighted the very real risks that journalists undertook in carrying out their work. Archant have produced new policies and guidelines for its staff around ‘safety and the abuse and harassment of journalists.’ IPSO can also offer editors and journalists non-binding on the Code or the public interest, if they have any concerns about articles prior to publication. The Journalists’ Whistleblowing Hotline is also available for confidential support and advice.

The submissions emphasised the critical – albeit challenging - role of journalism in helping the public make sense of the rapidly changing world around them.  The annual statements submitted by IPSO’s members for 2021 have now been published on our website.