The coronavirus pandemic proved the need for reliable journalism in the face of social-media misinformation about the crisis, Press Ombudsman Peter Feeney has said.
He was speaking as the 2020 annual report for his office and the Press Council that decides on appeals set out 347 complaints about press coverage last year, well up on the 252 received in 2019 but in line with the prior annual average.
Increased print and online readership and radio news listenership as Covid-19 struck augured well for journalism, Mr Feeney said.
“That indicates that the public have fallen back on reliable media as a source of accurate information at a time of crisis,” he said, adding that print and broadcast journalism both “rose to meet that crisis”.
The ombudsman issued a formal decision in 25 complaints, upholding seven, with three decisions overturned by the council on appeal. The council rejected 11 of the 14 appeals it considered, two of them held over from 2019.
The ombudsman received 52 complaints about pandemic reporting, upholding one for breach of privacy from a family against The Irish Times over the naming of a person who died in hospital due to Covid-19. He also upheld a complaint from Prof Tom Butler against The Irish Times over a piece on 5G technology.
The council upheld two appeals by commentator David Quinn after the ombudsman did not uphold complaints he made about reporting in The Irish Times on the incidence of mumps in unvaccinated people.
The 347 complaints included 55 related to a court report of a case involving a teenage girl. Such complaints never went to a formal decision as the ombudsman issued an advisory notice to media in relation to the case.