Gothic Nightmares
A solid piece of advocacy

Objectivity, parochialness and Orkla-Mecom

I must admit that being back in Norway really brings out the contrarian in me. Though I started my media career as a very opinionated columnist aged 18, for a few years there, after I graduated from journalism school, everything I wrote seemed to come out as news. I used to think that had something to do with all those ideas about objectivity they imprinted in us in journalism school: 'a journalist is supposed to be like a mirror and just let reality imprint itself on him or her'. For quite a while there, I actually tried to leave my personality and opinions at the door whenever I walked into a newsroom on an assignment and just be a professional. I've since come to see this as very mistaken, seeing how it was my personality and original analysis which landed me my biggest media assignments before I went to journalism school. These days I'm a big fan of Jeff Jarvis' views on disclosure: of course journalists have opinions, a history and formative experiences which influence the way we interpret the world – the only question is whether or not these are conscious (if unconscious, this leads to inability to divide facts from values and very biased reporting – but that's another debate), and we also owe our readers to be transparent about where we come from.

Now, this was a long digression into the debate about journalism and objectivity: what I really wanted to say is how, after I shifted my base back to Oslo, I've started wondering if the immense diversity of opinions and opinion outlets in England, didn't serve to pacify the contrarian in me all together. Maybe it was this, rather than journalism school, or the combination of the two, that dulled the revolutionary in me. Back in Norway I find myself wanting to shout from the roof-tops almost every day in outrage over some ridiculously parochial idea that 'everybody' seem to agree on.

A case in point is the Orkla-Mecom debate: the massive consensus in Norwegian media about how good media ownership does not exist outside our borders and how there's no culture but Norwegian culture could easily make me mount a massive and passionate defence for Mecom, foreign media ownership and British media (though I do see the challenges in Mecom's business model, more about that later)

The whole Orkla-debacle, and all the noise about the dreadful consequences of selling to foreigners like Mecom, makes you wonder why, given the supremacy of Norwegian media ownership, there are not more Norwegian Pultzier-price winning journalists – is it just the language holding us back? Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen offers their readers an edition of The New York Times every weekend – now Dagsavisen's owner A-pressen was one of the bidders for Orkla: given all the virtues of Norwegian media ownership, why isn't anyone scrambling to translate Dagsavisen's articles to English so that The New York Times can offer their readers a sample of articles from one of the 'best' media companies on earth?


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