A Look Inside the Ombudsman’s Office with Elizabeth Jensen

“It’s like being the fox in the hen house…”

Photo of Elizabeth Jensen by James Wrona Photogrpahy.

Our class had the honor of hosting NPR’s Ombudsman, Elizabeth Jensen this week. Prior to taking on this role in January 2015, Jensen had spent most of her career reporting on the media industry (everything from non-profit journalism start-ups to children’s media).

Jensen has contributed to numerous publications including The New York Times, Columbia Journalism Review, Current, The Los Angeles Times, Brill’s Content, The Wall Street Journal, and New York Daily News. After gaining experience analyzing media from the outside of the organizations she reported on, Jensen now enjoys her position on the inside as NPR’s Ombudsman. When she’s not working for NPR, Jensen also teaches food journalism at New York University.

What is an Ombudsman?

As it was explained to us, the Ombudsman is the public’s representative in the newsroom. Those who hold this position investigate the concerns of listeners, work to increase journalistic transparency, and raise issues in media ethics. Jensen can speak freely and critically. The role also doubles as a sounding board for the public — in fact, Jensen receives about 1,400 emails from listeners every month.

A Professional’s Perspective

Jensen actively critiques the NPR newsroom, but says that it’s well-balanced overall. Despite some accusations that NPR is too liberal, she believes the network succeeds at creating space for all points of view. If anything, she says, NPR hosts tend to grill liberals more intensely than conservatives. Check out some of Jensen’s recent articles:

Restoring Faith in Journalism

As we navigate our way through this new era of “fake news,” Jensen’s position is more important than ever. She introduced the class to the Trust Project, and discussed how valuable a corrections link on the homepage could be for boosting transparency further still. As publications and news outlets scramble for ways to gain society’s trust, Jensen advises that media organizations double-down on the fundamentals.

Additional Information

Below you can find links to some of the different topics Jensen discussed with us, as well as additional information about her.