Table of contents
2. Changes and challenges
3. Possible answers
Finland belongs to a list of countries that Hallin and Mancini place in the group of the ‘Democratic Cororatist’ model. (quoted after Hovden 2009, p.149; Hujanen 2009, p. 2) The central elements of this group are high newspaper circulation, strong professionalism and state intervention. They rose from a history of “early democratization, consensus-based governments, a history of democratic corporatism and a strong welfare state.” (quoted after Hovden 2009, p.149) These elements show clearly when taking a look at the Finnish history. Newspapers were born as political organs around 1900. 1917 Finland declared its independence and the welfare state has been built up until today. The era of newspapers as political organs ended only at the end of the 1990s and was followed by a non-political news policy. In combination to this change, in the 1950s the development of commercial media markets began and continues until today. One of the consequences of this was that the newspapers owned by media chains have to fulfil profit expectations. (Hujanen 2009, p.2) Finland has had different media eras, but the question is which cycle we are experiencing now? The media landscapes everywhere are moving, being discussed and worried about- therefore it might be the ‘era of change and challenges’. Like Ann Axelsson says, “the only certainty in our industry [the newspaper industry, A/N] is the incertitude.” (Das Magazin 2009)
One major discussion focuses on the role of journalists. Therefore this essay will explore the situation in Finland, focusing on questions and developments introduced by the beginning of the so called ‘digital age’. The core will consist of issues concerning newspaper journalist since the public and scientific discussions concentrate often around the possible death of newspapers and the new requirements for newspaper journalists. Today, Finland still carries the bronze medal in newspaper consumption after Norway and Japan. The strong tradition of newspaper subscriptions (almost 70 % of households) builds the fundament of this media market. This leads to the number of 76% of Finns who are over 10 years old reading one of the 26 daily newspapers every day. (Hujanen 2009, p.2; Jyrkiäinen 2006) Newspaper are attributed the part of the political and regional voice in Finnish society. (Hujanen 2009, p.2)
But there is another central player in the picture: the internet. Also here Finland is part of the top group with a penetration of over 70%. The internet has had progressive influence on the every day lives as well as on business and the media landscapes. The newspaper companies have realized the importance of this platform and have built up constantly updated online versions or even PDF-editions that offer the complete content of the printed paper. The online news are usually for free while the PDF-versions can be read against a fee. Several newspaper websites rank in the top ten of the most visited pages. (Jyrkiäinen 2004, 2006)These processes logically had an effect both on the audience and on the media professionals.
The changes alter the expectations towards journalists as well as the journalists’ work routines and own professional images. The typical idealistic core values of journalists so far have been public service, objectivity, autonomy, immediacy and ethics. (Hujanen 2009; Hovden 2009) According to Jaana Hujanen, for Finnish journalists the ideal of serving the public by criticising the elite and addressing societal issues is a central part of their self-definition. This is the result of the strong influence the newspapers have in the role as regional and political voice. (Hujanen 2009, p.2) But all the new powers in the media world force journalists to rebuild or adapt their self-image at least partly.
The editors expect journalists to establish new concepts and practices to acclimate to the developments and face the challenges. (Hujanen 2009, p.1) The editors themselves are caught in the middle between business and journalistic work. One part of the media business world is the importance of brands. With cross media, market and technological convergence the name of a newspaper becomes a brand. The editors have the task keep the good reputation of the brand both by advertising it and keeping its quality. The definition of quality and the associations the brand wants to evocate steer both business and content decisions.
The audience expects media to offer them more than just printed news, they request content related to their individual lives and interests. They also wish to be taken serious and they want to have the opportunity to participate.
2. Changes and challenges
It is not only the internet that gave birth to those challenges but it has both accelerated and enforced some of those developments and changes while also causing some new ones. Decreasing subscription, audience fragmentation, new reading traditions, grassroots journalism, user-generated content and convergence are some of the keywords. Mostly there are several aspects that cause the change, not only the ones initiated by the internet but also cultural, social and economic ones.
One of the most obvious developments that made newspapers realize they need to (re-)act are the decreasing readership and subscription numbers- even if the situation in Finland is not as alarming as in other continues. This development started in the recessions of the 1990s and continues with the recession today which also resulted in dropping advertisement income. The processes were fuelled again by the internet. (Hujanen 2009, p. 1) Especially in the younger generations the media traditions change. They do not subscribe to newspapers anymore because they are used to accessing news and information through the internet. Other socio-cultural factors like dislocation and temporality also create new traditions. In cities the number of one-person households is increasing and people in this living situation are less likely to subscribe to a newspaper. Those developments along with rising costs force newspapers to look out for new concepts and resources. (Hujanen 2009, p. 1; Jyrkiäinen 2004, 2006) Hujanen argues that the sum of all mentioned developments leads to “a sense of displacement, but also of social inequality and, ultimately, the fragility of public life: unwillingness and powerlessness to participate in communal life.” (Hujanen 2009, p. 1) Those issues challenge the journalists since they see it as their role to act as facilitators of communication between communities and to create a public sphere. But the situation seems to be quite the opposite: citizens are passive observers. (Hujanen 2009, p. 1)
Hence, it is obvious that the internet and the information society of today include both new possibilities and demands for the journalists. There are quicker available sources but the information overflow bears the challenge of finding what one is searching for and then verifying the quality of the information. (Mäkinen 2009, p.7) In their professional environment journalists are also challenged by the corporate identity and concepts of their employers. The two opposite poles ruling the newspaper landscape are the ‘market-oriented journalism’ and ‘societal journalism’. (Hujanen 2009, p. 4) Journalists have to try to find their own professional identity and navigate through the sea of expectations and requirements because new journalistic abilities are also requested. Not only needs a journalist to be prepared and willing to interact and discuss with the reader but she/he needs to gain new technical skills. It is expected that a journalist can write, shoot videos and take pictures and edit them all in a way so that they are ready to be put online while following up the normal everyday work and research. Also writing online differs from writing offline. Today the rule is that the audience does not want to read long articles online but just short news. Hyperlinks, videos, more pictures and interactive features are seen as necessary. Other assumptions made by newspapers are that the majority of the offline audience consists of ‘busy readers’ that do not have time to concentrate for too long and therefore do not follow the whole text. Entrance and exit points need to be provided, several main points have to be summarized in enhanced quotes. This causes alterations in the writing practice of journalists as well as in the layout of the newspaper both on- and offline. The stronger economical focus also has affects on the work of the journalists by less (human and financial) resources in the newsroom.
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- ISBN (Book)
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- Institution / College
- University of Helsinki – Communications
- Media communications Nordic countries scandinavia Finland Journalism digital era challenges