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Are the Trustees doing their job?

So the Thomson Reuters trustees are to get a new chairwoman. Dame Helen Alexander has an impressive list of past and present jobs, so many in fact that one wonders if she will have enough time to fulfil the vital duty of safeguarding the Trust Principles. We must hope so and that perhaps she can make the trustees more vigorous in protecting the core values that have made Reuters such a trusted news source - and provided a unique selling point for its clients.

In recent years, since the takeover of Reuters by the Thomson organisation, one could be forgiven for wondering whether the trustees have been out for a very long lunch. There were some questions about whether they had performed due diligence at the time of the takeover, but recent events suggest a steady erosion of the values on which Reuters built an enviable world reputation. It is difficult to imagine how sponsored content or even more so the Red Bull contract can have been given the green light by the trustees. The latter prompted strong criticism by several media commentators while the trustees would need only to read a report last year by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford to perceive the pitfalls of sponsored content and the compromises and dilemmas it may create. The report was headlined “Readers feel deceived over sponsored content, posing significant risk of damage to the reputation of digital publishers - new research”.

It said in part: “The special research, conducted for the Reuters Institute by YouGov as part of the 4th Digital News Report, shows just how confused readers are by the labelling of so-called sponsored content and suggests that when it comes to native (sponsored) advertising, the risk of damaging reputations are far higher for news websites than for advertisers.” ■