Why it’s more important than ever to support the #PowerOfJournalism

By Lena Samuelsson

Schibsted Media Group

Stockholm, Sweden


In recent months, against the backdrop of fake news, journalism has come under heavy scrutiny. The sacred fundamental value of trust is under threat. We felt the need for a forum that both celebrates great journalism and addresses the challenges we face in a world of fake news and distrust.

To this end, Schibsted and the Tinius Trust initiated the The Power of Journalism, an arena where we could share, discuss, learn, and talk about what we care about: the future of journalism. Together with some 250 friends and colleagues, we recently launched our first event in Oslo.

Legendary Schibsted editor Torry Pedersen opened the day: “Now, when the immune system of our open societies is under attack, our belief in the power of journalism as the prerequisite for vital democracies is stronger than ever. And so is our belief in the future of journalism. But to succeed we must share ideas, inspire each other, strengthen the ties between all of us who actually care about and believe in the true power of journalism.”

Trust is both fragile and strong. When deeply felt, it can turn a tide. When weakened to distrust, it can tear families, friends, and nations apart. In the era of “post truth,” real journalism has become more important than ever. After spending years shaping up withering business models and finding new ways to provide news in an ever-changing media landscape, the battle this time stands at our very core.

And there are many good forces out there, perhaps more than ever. At South by Southwest (SXSW) this year, one of the big takeaways was that “journalism is back.” American colleagues reported how people now rally around The New York Times and others to pay for real content.

Here in Scandinavia, we see collaboration driving innovation, former competitors join forces to provide our users with truth, and, all over the world, fact checking is spreading like an antidote to rumors and planted disinformation.

None of us have all the answers to these challenges, so at The Power of Journalism event, we got together with some great people from the industry. Among the speakers were Emily Bell, founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School; Jenna Pirog, virtual reality editor at The New York Times Magazine; Bill Adair, creator of PolitiFact; and Jari Bakken from Faktisk.no.

The debate focused on how the craft of journalism could win the public’s approval and how we can win back the trust. And how we now have to take a hard look at ourselves and learn from the mistakes. How could mainstream media miss the forces that put Donald Trump in office? How can we have neglected the voices of the unheard? Is it just because they tell a story we don’t want to hear? What can we learn?

Pedersen reminded us The Power of Journalism Day took place in Norway, the country with both the strongest democracy and greatest freedom for journalists. He was quoting The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index and the World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders.

“Is there a connection between having such well-developed democracies and so much freedom for journalists?” he asked. And the answer is yes. The more powerful our journalism, the stronger our democracies.

Winners of the Schibsted Journalism Awards proved high-quality journalism is still important and necessary.
Winners of the Schibsted Journalism Awards proved high-quality journalism is still important and necessary.

I want to take this opportunity to share with you some pieces that truly enforce the power of journalism. These were the stories nominated for the annual Schibsted Journalism Awards, showcasing the best from our media houses.

The winners of the Best Scoop category told us something simple, yet important. A single tip from members of the public can lead to important stories with great impact. In this case, it was a story about grave misbehaviour by a well-known attorney in Norway. After almost a year of persistent and diligent work, VG journalists Rolf J. Widerøe and Bjørnar Tommelstad uncovered a sensational story.

The attorney in question ran his own law firm and had published a book on human rights. Nevertheless, on June 15, 2016, VG revealed the lawyer had asked a torpedo to kidnap a rape victim before a trial in Oslo District Court. The aim was to have the case dismissed and his client released. The lawyer was arrested and is now charged with obstructing the course of justice and many other offences.

The next story I want to tell you about was published by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. “The Swedish Hatred” is about hate and violence in the extremist movements in Sweden. Journalist Gellert Tamas and editor/designer Linn Ogelid take the reader on a terrifying yet insightful trip into the darker parts of our society. The presentation is well-crafted and proves that journalism still needs long formats.

It teaches us one important lesson: Some stories cannot be left for the historians to tell; they must be told now, as they unfold. Not surprisingly, “The Swedish Hatred” won the Schibsted Journalism Award for Best Storytelling.

The final story was also published by Aftonbladet. In “Klassresan,” reporters Mattias Sandberg and Joachim Kerpner, editor Titti Jersler, and UX designer Tim Holmberg follow the most segregated subway line in Stockholm (the Red Line) exposing division in the city.

“Klassresan” opened our eyes to how journalists can use non-traditional and really creative forms of information sharing to get out their reporting. “Klassresan” mixes data, video, graphics, dense research, and brilliant user experience to take us on a mental — and physical — journey. The stories are presented in a format that will inspire the next generation of journalism.

By taking this digital journey, more than two million people learned about the neighbourhoods surrounding the subway stations and met the people who live and work there. “Klassresan” won the Schibsted Journalism Award for Best Innovative entry.

These are all excellent examples of powerful journalism that builds trust. There are many more, all over the world. Independent journalism is under attack, but in many ways, it is also more vigorous and dynamic than ever. And right now, it needs our care, support, and passion.

So, let’s join forces and empower great journalism: Every day you read a truly important story, please celebrate it and give it the trademark of #powerofjournalism.

About Lena Samuelsson

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