How to handle complaints – a robust guide for publishers

By Emma Meese | 18th Jul 2017

For community and hyperlocal news publications that are not members of a regulatory body, this template offers a robust procedure for handling editorial complaints. We recommend that individual publishers amend the document to suit their own means and capabilities, particularly the section on time limits. Although we strongly believe the suggested periods are fair and achievable.

Likewise, we recommend all publications consider independent arbitration. Unfortunately, this is not something which the Centre for Community Journalism offers but there are many media experts who will no doubt provide this service for a fee.

It is our suggestion that a link to the document should be visible on the home page of your publication’s website, along with your publication’s logo.

Complaints procedure

[ XXXXXXXX]  is committed to working within and adhering strictly to the Editors Code of Practice or the Impress Standards Code (DELETE AS APPROPRIATE) and the NUJ Code of Conduct.


However, if any person feels we have breached the code in any way and wishes to make a complaint, please submit your complaint, in writing to the editor (editor@[XXXXXXXXXX].com) in accordance with the following steps.

  1. All complaints must include the name and date of the publication, with reference to the specific article in question.
  2. Please include the URL of the article if possible, and/or link to any image or video.
  3. A detailed description of the complaint, with reference to specific words, phrases, images, instances, dates and records that are relevant, and which clauses of the Editors Code of Practice you believe the publication has breached.


Who can complain?

  1. Complaints must be made on behalf of a named individual only. This includes complaints where businesses and organisations are involved
  2. In submitting a complaint, you must provide your full name, address, phone number and email.


What can I complain about?

  1. You can complain about any article, in print or online, including words, images and audio/video content.
  2. You can also complain about the conduct of an individual journalist or employee of the publication in question, with reference to specific (if any) clauses of the Editors Code which are in breach


Time Limit

  1. Complaints must be contemporaneous and must be made within four months of publication.
  2. The publication will endeavour to respond to the complainant within 21 working days.


Complaints process

  1. The editor will confirm receipt of the complaint within three working days by contacting the complainant via email.
  2. All complaints will be dealt with by the editor of the publication that published the article, and/or the employer of the named individual.
  3. The editor will investigate the complaint to the best of his/her ability, in respect of the Editors Code of Practice, and respond accordingly.
  4. If we uphold your complaint, we will inform you of the remedial actions taken or to be taken.
  5. If the complainant is not satisfied with the suggested resolution, complainants are free to seek the advice of a media lawyer.



All information provided to [XXXXXXX] will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 1998.

You can access a PDF of this document by clicking here

If you’re a community and hyperlocal news publishers wishing to apply to receive content from the BBC’s Local News Partnership Scheme, this document will help you meet the eligibility criteria.

Disclaimer: The Centre for Community Journalism is not responsible for the content produced by independent publications and so cannot be held accountable for editorial inaccuracies. We exist to support and provide training and representation to community and hyperlocal news publishers. We are not an official regulator.

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