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Editorial: Changing media and redundant journalists

| Text Berit Kvam

Are the big media corporations panicking in the face of changing media habits when redundancies spread across the industry? Falling classifieds revenues, budget cuts and fewer readers are shaking Nordic newspaper houses. Jobs are cut across the board and senior writers take early retirement, bidding a sad farewell after serving society for many years. What is happening?

The media industry is in the middle of major reforms and nobody knows what the future will look like. Big and small newspapers realise they need to compete with digital platforms and social media, or they will be serving an increasingly ageing group of readers. This month’s theme highlights the challenges ahead.

Nordic Labour Journal’s figures show the largest Nordic newspapers suffered a 20 percent fall between 2007 and 2011. And things are changing at an increasing rate. In Finland alone more than 500 journalists have received their notice in the past six months, says the Union of Journalists in Finland. Why are so many profitable companies firing people?

”They make panicky decisions” Juha Rekola tells NLJ. Denmark is worst hit among the Nordic countries, according to media expert Lasse Jensen: “All excess fat is long gone, and many newspapers are reaching the limit of what they can take economically.” Young people are used to accessing global online news for free, and nobody seems to know how newspapers can capture younger readers and make them pay for content. 

News is produced and is being consumed in new ways, and digital media are growing fast. But broad, independent and critical public debate could be weakened if blogs and tweets become more important than the fourth estate.

Journalists and editors have so far been guarantors for quality. This also forms the basis for governments preparing “necessary changes” in the face of multimedia solutions and when they debate future state media support and VAT on digital platforms. 

But that doesn’t remove the fear for the future in an industry used to pose critical questions. It remains to be seen whether the owners’ words can stop the dread of a downward spiral:

“I think any society will continue to need people who are good observers, who can connect the dots and report it all back in a concise and interesting way,” Ole Jacob Sunde, Chairman at the Schibsted media group, tells Nordic Labour Journal. 

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