Monday, March 23, 2009

Who Wants To Be A Journalist

Originally uploaded by amsterboy
Last Friday was a good day. I met deals on a couple of work projects, had great breakfast in superb company and ended the day by visiting Sanoma Corporation´s media education space Piste.

I have been mongering (is that a word) about the state of media education for ages. I feel that it more than often focuses on protecting young people from "the media", treats children and teenagers and imbeciles, forgets the role of amateurs in creating media content and forgets notions of critical reading. Good description of the current debate here. For all this, it was great to visit Piste and see that someone knows how to do it.

Sanoma Corporation has build a sort of a mini-Helsinki into the basement of its headquarters. The participants are divided to teams with some of them working for the quality daily Helsingin Sanomat and some for the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat. They all get mobiles, maps and guidance from an editor. All teams working on the same story and in the end they need to decide within their team on the angle of the story, on the headline and the photo.

Piste emphasises the key things in journalism:
- that good journalism requires dedication, persistence and investigation. You need to keep calling people, checking information given to you and making sure that you make good notes.
- it shows the essence of team work and clear division of tasks.
- it strengthens understanding that journalism is very much also about choices in terms of angle. That even if you have the same information, the story is different in Ilta-Sanomat and Helsingin Sanomat. Piste also demonstrates well how different the story seems with a different headline.

The great thing is also that the groups are led by real journalists who can through their own work show what all these issues mean in real life. I am sure this makes the visiting teenagers listen much more carefully. Our guide for instance was telling how you need to constantly make choices for instance around the school shootings on when to publish the name of the shooter or a certain photo. She also shed some light on the collaboration with the police and fire department.

I would be surprised if someone after Piste would not want to become a journalist. Piste demonstrates superbly how fascinating the job really is and how top quality media education really is done.


Anni said...

I think digital media makes the headline even more important. E.g. when I read Helsingin Sanomat online I only skim trough the headlines and click the ones that sound interesting. If I was reading the actual paper, I would probably also read few first lines of the actual article before turning the page.

Pauliina said...

Thanks Tommi! It was a pleasure to guide you people.

I think we journalists could do better job to take young people into consideration. Both in media education as well as readers. Let's admit it: we need young readers in the future!

Also, I couldn't agree more with Anni. I work as online editor or journalist at and we discuss every day about the importance of good headlines.

A lot of online news sites still try to lure as many clicks as possible with the headlines. We try as well, of course. However, this cannot happen on the cost of accuracy. Readers are smart they get upset if you try lure them with a headline that does not match with the substance.