By: M.L. Stein
Most newspaper ombudsmen in the U.S. are a one-man or one-woman operation with very few having assistants or secretaries. Indeed, they themselves are considered an indulgence by some papers.
But staffing is not a problem at Yomiuri Shimbun in Tokyo, said Osami Okuya, one of 12 foreign delegates at the annual conference of the Organization of News Ombudsmen. The national daily, he disclosed in an interview, has 28 people in the ombudsmen department, including 18 fact-checkers. Of course, the number may not seem that high when considering Yomiuri Shimbun’s 10 million circulation.
“We’re kept pretty busy,” Okuya noted. “The main complaints are bias and bad journalism” ? a familiar sound to his U.S. counterparts. The ombudsmen, he added, get 130 to 150 calls a day.
The other ONO foreign members in attendance represented newspapers in Colombia, Canada, Israel, Guatemala, Spain, Puerto Rico, The Netherlands and Brazil. All told, ONO has 38 American members and 22 from other countries.
Jan Kees Hulsbosch of De Volkskrant in Amsterdam said his paper cuts down on the number of complaints by requiring reporters to live in various communities for a year to learn more about its problems and concerns. “This makes us more sensitive to what people are thinking,” he explained.
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