Controversy over covering Anders Behring Breivk trial divides Norway

The Breivik-trial has taken live-coverage to a new level, but Norwegians are divided on whether it is a scandal or a blessing the testimony and examination of the mass mass murderer cannot be broadcasted.

In the internet age, don’t we have a right to go to directly to the source, to see for ourselves, to make up our own minds ?

Especially when the evidence in question is that of the man responsible for the worst peace time massacre in modern Norwegian history? If society is deprived of this opportunity, are we not running the risk of interpretations and claims of biased reporting taking the place of facts?

Or is it the other way around: are we running a greater risk of creating copy cats if this bit of the trial is broadcasted, and are we not just providing him with a stage to spread his gospel of hate?

These and similar questions are at the centre of a big controversy surrounding the coverage of the trial against Anders Behring Breivik, the man responsible for slaying 77 people in the twin terror attacks on Norwegian government headquarters in Oslo and a Labour Party youth camp on Utöya 22 July 2011.

Even now, as the trial is about to enter its fourth week, the heated debate has not abated.

In its first week, had a good round-up of many of the ethical issues for journalists covering the trial, in which I’m interviewed. The story outlines some of the biggest legal issues involved. But this story poses so many interesting and troubling questions that I thought it interesting to delve more into some of the arguments.

One of those who is frustrated by not being able to see the examination of Breivik for himself, with his own eyes, is Norwegian author Ingvar Ambjörnsen.

In his VG column after the first week of the trial he describes how he travelled to Norway from his home in Berlin especially to see the court room examination. But, he writes (my unofficial translation):

"I’m not allowed to hear him. I’m not allowed to see him explain his actions. What I’m served is reports and impressions from the inner circle of Breivik-initiateds, from guests especially invited to see this grotesque drama. People who tell us how terrible he is, and how happy we can be that we can still live in a kind of world of innocence."

Ambjörnsen feels it is important to see for himself how the mass murderer comes across so he "can forget him".

Another Norwegian author, Karl Over Knausgaard, echoes this sentiment in a piece for New York Times: "…to get an impression of the nature of a person, one has to see him in motion. So much is contained in the posture of the body, the position of the hands, the movement of the eyes."

"The image of journalists and different experts commenting a running (and censored) text on the left the image, is a shame we cannot live with. It’s a historical error," Ambjörnsen concludes.

Here Ambjörnsen is referring to a major innovation in how Norwegian online newspapers are covering the trial. Several have developed their own "live windows" with a mix of features.

VG’s live window (screengrabs below) - whose coverage I’ve followed most closely and found myself totally captivated by - features a word by word transcript of what’s being said, a moderated Twitter-feed and live video - frequently of interviews with experts commenting on what’s happening inside the court room as little of the proceedings can be broadcasted.

From the first day:




It is this latter aspect, the massive use of experts by all media – both on live-tv and in other formats such as in op-eds, on radio and tv and in print – which has left many people feeling uncomfortable.

The Norwegian Editor’s Association has campaigned to be able to broadcast the trial, and at the start of the trial’s editor-in-chief, Espen Egil Hansen, said:

"I think everyone should get a chance to hear and see what is happening in court. We who are present in the court room get at a very different impression of how Breivik is exposed in court. To me, he appears pathetic, you don’t get the same impression when you are only reading a text."

The editor of the trade journal for Norwegian journalists, Helge Ögrim, has taken the contrarian view, arguing that those arguing against the broadcasting ban, fail to pay heed to the counterarguments. Among those:

  • Psychologists have argued that those under the age of 16 run a great risk of getting psychological reactions and traumas from watching the trial, something broadcasting the trial would increase the risk of.
  • Broadcasting would place the next of kin and those directly effected by the terror attacks under a heavier load.
  • It would be ethically dubious to broadcast the testimony of someone who two of the main court psychiatrists on the case thinks is a paranoid schizophrenic.
  • Broadcasting his testimony would give Breivik a dubious platform to spread his gospel of hate.  

However, are we really served with only getting this trial against a man who created a national trauma with the atrocities he committed last summer through the eyes of a league of experts?

In an op-ed published in Aftenposten a communication advisor, Stefan Brunvatne, who was present at the start of the trial, wrote:

"While the commentators are crawling over each other in their efforts to paint a picture of an incoherent man who is sitting there, giving us insight into evil incarnated, and 'experts' make critical comments on everything from his body language to his historical facts, Anders Behring Breivik is sitting there in the eye of the storm appearing surprisingly calm and collected.

"For someone who has been present at two of the key days during Breivik’s testimony, Friday 20 April and Monday 23 April, the shocking thing is not Breivik’s behaviour but the discrepancy between it and the monster image painted by the media."

Part of the challenge here is how difficult the trial is to cover. Norwegian war correspondent Aasne Seierstad has said it is much more difficult to cover a case she herself feels so affected by, like the Breivik-trial, than being a war correspondent. "Unfortunately it seems easier to work with stories you have a journalistic distance to," Seierstad, who is writing a book about the trial, told VG.

As Breivik told the court how he regretted not having killed more people, and described his plan to decapitate a former Norwegian prime minister, in the first week of the trial, even foreign correspondents present at the trial expressed their horror on Twitter at what they had just heard .

Daniel Bennett has written an interesting post on the dilemmas of allowing live-coverage via Twitter while banning broadcasting.

Could it be that Norwegian commentators and journalists are too affected by the trial to be objective? Or is the very idea of trying to be objective in case like this ludicruos in itself? So many questions, so few ready answers.

Max Fisher has argued in The Atlantic that Norway does what the US didn’t dare to do with Khaleid Sheikh Mohammed, the assumed mastermind behind 9/11. The Breivik-trial can teach Americans that transparancy hurts terrorism (via @svelle, no direct link available).

Many Norwegians will argue that the trial is still not transparent enough.

However, according to NRK, those desperate to see the trial with their own eyes, may get to see parts of Breivik’s testimony by taking a trip to The National Archieves a year after the trial finishes to see the parts of the video records that are not deemed too sensitive (people may e.g. get to see the parts where Breivik talks about his political and ideological motives).

WWW inventor warns against call for comment sections to be placed under Data Rentention Act

- Don’t let Anders Behring Breivik become an excuse to encroach on human rights, said Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Since the twin terror attacks on Utöya and Oslo 22/7 last year, Norway has seen demands to censor and monitor web communications grow stronger as people have looked for ways to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.

The man who committed the atrocities has been portrayed as a terrorist who would have been unable to create the destruction he did without the internet – as he copy-pasted so much of his manifesto and strategy from web sources and committed his crimes with the explicit hope of making his manifesto a viral hit.

"If only someone had monitored the comment sections on far right-wing news sites and blogs better, could he have been stopped before he managed to slay 77 people?," is a question that has been asked repeatedly in many forms since 22/7.

Recently, The Norwegian Police Service (PST) even asked to have the comment sections of news sites and debate forums governed by the Data Retention Act in order to "better investigate hateful comments and threats towards people in authority." 

So obtaining a short interview with Berners-Lee when he was in Oslo speaking at Gulltaggen, a Nordic digital marketing conference, last week I asked him how he thought society should respond to the likes of Breivik, who relied heavily on the web to organise his campaign and to espouse his ideas.

"I think we have to be very careful with fundamental human rights. Here we have two different levels. On the first level, police should go to these sites were people are discussing hate crimes and infiltrate these," he said.

But he also warned that the authorities do not need extra powers to automatically monitor everyone on the planet.

"A normal person must be able to go the web to research a sensitive issue, such as a medical condition, safe in the knowledge that this will remain between him an the website," he said.

Berners-Lee  said he was concerned about how increased demands for monitoring the web, both from governments looking for greater powers to track down terrorists and companies looking to trade our personal web data for commercial purposes, threatens the very infrastructure of the web.

He described his worry that people in the end will no longer trust and use the web for e.g. researching sensitive things like depression if they fear everything they do online is being monitored.

On the Data Retention Act and similar initiatives, he had the following comment:

"If you collect a lot of personal data in once place this can easily become dynamite. You have a lot of sensitive information sitting there in a database, becoming a very attractive target for cyber criminals or rough states using hackers to attack other countries’ infrastructure where it is most vulnerable," he said, referring to how cyber crime and cyber terrorism is on the increase.

Talking to Norwegian intelligence sources when I interviewed Misha Glenny in connection with his new book ”DarkMarket: CyberThieves, Cybercops and You” in November, they confirmed cyber crime and cyber attacks on national infrastructure was also on the rise in Norway.

As for that Tim Berners-Lee interview: I’m used to opinions being strongly divided in the comment section on technology stories for VG, Norway’s biggest news site, but on this story every single commenter applauded Berners-Lee's comments.

How to transition from legacy media culture to the digital world

The short answer? Be agile and well-managed. Here’s how.

Of course, I don’t have all the answers. Not by far. But this month’s report by Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism on the efforts and failings of newspapers to grow their digital businesses had me thinking about some insights I’ve had while working for Schibsted-owned

"It’s not a revenue problem, it’s a culture problem," Matthew Ingram and others concluded from reading the Pew report. Incidentally, cultural inertia – and the explanations for its presence or absence – has always fascinated me (see e.g. previous posts here, here, here and here).

So it was with great fascination I went from writing about Verdens Gang (VG), a media company much acclaimed for its innovative approach and profitable digital operations, as a media journalist,  to writing for it about a year and a half ago.

It is, as Frédéric Filloux argued last week, easy to lecture on how to solve the cultural challenges of legacy media from afar (though it could just as well be argued that you easily can become so entrenched in this legacy culture you struggle to see it from the outside).

And while it is true that I’ve co-founded and been the driving force behind building up Norwegian Online News Association (NONA) and a few other start-ups and projects,  I’m not going to claim any major management experience –especially not when it comes to legacy media (where I have zero).

However, I’m a keen observer, have a special interest in organisational culture and have worked for a wide range of different media companies over the last decade+

What’s especially struck me about is how the company combines a well-run, professional organisation with a structure that allows it to mimic some of the key features of small, nimbler start-ups.

A few key characteristics:

  • Short way from idea to execution
  • Programmers in the newsroom
    This is one reason why that way from idea to execution can be short. Also, the company has few walls between IT and the newsroom. In particular, has a designer and a journalist-programmer who are 100% dedicated to news related innovation, they’re not just on loan when IT doesn’t need them, and they each have that 20 per cent innovation time Google is famous for baked into their job descriptions.
  • Helping readers help each other
    One of the best examples of the value of having programmers in the newsroom was during the ash cloud crisis, when someone had the genius idea for the Hitchhiker’s Central  - and it only took 6-7 hours to program and get up and running. The site certainly saved my day, and that of contributing editor Colin Meek, as I explained in a blog post at the time. I’m particularly fond of this notion of VG using its position as Norway’s most read news site to design solutions to help readers help each other (there are numerous other examples) as a form of service journalism (as described in this column).
  • Speed
    Some of the most successful of the company’s editorial innovations are made on the basis of the idea that you have to move fast, it doesn’t have to be perfect – just get it out there, then improve as you go along.
  • A Goolesque-attitude to trying out new things
  • Kill things before they die a slow and painful death
    It goes with the territory: Trying sometimes means failing, and even a massive success can have a limited time span and may need to be abandoned before it becomes a liability. Social network Nettby is a good example. At one stage it was by far the biggest social network in Norway, and it was profitable (as I described in this post for, but it was eventually eclipsed by Facebook – and killed off towards the end of 2010.
  • A willingness to cannibalise your own products.
    Okay, I read this, in a very interesting American report on Schibsted which is quite old by now, but it rings true and is still worth reading. How will this be affected when VG now is merging its print and online operations? I don’t know, but there’s lots of food for thought in that report.  
  • Good management,  good routines (on everything from press ethics to payment) and  clear leadership.

The last bullet point is especially important.

If you’re a two-three person start-up it’s easy to play by ear, be flexible etc – too much structure might even get in the way. But on the road to success most start-ups reach a stage where they need to get those routines in place in order to operate efficiently. In some respects, it’s the price of success.

And in a big organisation good routines make all the difference – in a creative one, it frees you up to be creative.

I’m not quite sure how to phrase this, but I’ve seen it in so many (media) companies:

A well-run organisation facilitates a good, consistently creative and innovative work environment in ways a badly run one, or one where management is absent or erratic, simply cannot match. The contribution of good PAs, accountants, administrators are highly undervalued, and clear leadership makes a huge difference,

I think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is relevant here as well: just as it’s easier for an individual who’s very existence is not constantly under threat, who’s got all his or her basic needs covered, to be creative and innovative, it’s easier to be so if you don’t constantly worry about getting paid on time, what to expect of the management next or whether or not you have a job tomorrow.

At a news:rewired-event in January 2009 professor and head of journalism at City University, George Brock, said that his title shouldn’t be professor of journalism, but professor of chaos history.

Most journalists have become very adapt at living with daily (news and production) chaos, but dealing with it creatively becomes easier when you don’t have to deal with it at management level too. I’ve previously put together some musings on how this affects innovation here.

Now, in the above, I’ve mostly described my impressions of how deals with editorial innovation. I have no direct experiences of how this works on the commercial side of the business, but my impression is that the culture is much the same in that department too.

The big question is how this culture will fare when the company’s print and digital operations now are merged.  I don’t know enough  of that process to answer, but given all of the above I think it has decent chances of surviving intact.

I may of course be a bit biased here, and none of those things I describe take away the very real management challenges that Filloux describe in his post on newspaper culture.

But I do think that what I describe show that there are ways, even for a very old newspaper such as VG, to break away from the legacy culture - although I have no illusions about it being easy.  Also, there are bound to be other newspaper organisations combining some or most of the above, VG just happens to be a company I’ve been privileged to gain more insight into.

Update 30.03.2012:'s Lucas Weldeghebriel explained more in detail how the news site has created an organisational structure to facilitate editorial innovation at a recent NONA-meeting. Read the headlines from his talk here (in Norwegian).

Seriously, I need a job

The bad thing about changing deeply set habits and patterns of reactions? It may make you realise how unsustainable your lifestyle  has been.

In 2011, I chose one of the hardest new year resolutions ever – to change deeply set  patterns of behaviour and reactions – and for the most part I succeeded.

I can’t begin to tell you what a monumentous achievement that was, and how hard it was to get there.

The only problem is, it made me realise how totally unsustainable my life has been for the last 18 years or so.

See, in all those years I never had a permanent job.

I’ve either been working as a freelancer, temp or been on short term contracts.

In the UK, at the start of my career, I somehow made it work, even though I was temping in London inner city school and taking shifts in the local pub to make ends meet.

But in Norway the tax burden is just too crazy. If I was to pay both tax and all the insurances to come close to equalling the benefits a salaried worker takes for granted , I’d be left with 40 per cent of my earnings. That’s 60% tax and insurance on a modest salary – which is insane.  But just as bad is how you end up working around the clock all the time and feeling guilty whenever you take even just a day off.

The short an easy answer to why I’ve put up with this for so long is that I love my work.

I love my work to the extent that I often used to forget about such things as sleeping or eating, keeping regular business hour and not working around the clock. Sometimes I’ve even forgotten to agree any kind of payment terms before I’ve taken on an assignment – not the best starting point for a freelancer.

The more complex answer, one I’m more reluctant to admit publicly and only recently realised was an important factor, is that I’ve become much too good at living in a state of constant emergency and war, which brings me back to how I’ve changed those deeply set habits and patterns of reaction.

If I’m totally honest with myself, until a year or two back, my life has pretty much been a constant state of emergency since I was told that my life might be over after a serious hit-and-run accident at 17.

Those were of course not the doctors’ exact words, but they told me I might have sustained very serious injuries which, had their worst case scenarios played out, my life as I had envisioned it would indeed have been over. 

As it was, I refused to accept those worst case scenarios, and set about proving to myself and the world around me that the doctors were wrong – bending, breaking or overstepping most real and perceived limitations in the process.

As most people around me feared the doctors were right it felt like I was caught in this giant, existential battle: It was me against the world, and in the process I became a master of abusing myself for the greater purpose.

«You have a mind that decides where it wants to go, and then you have this immense willpower which pushes your body where your mind wants to go no matter the consequences,» a wise woman told me when I was 20.

Doesn’t sound like the most sustainable kind of lifestyle, does it?

Well, I burned out at 20 – and got to know myself and my limitations a whole lot better in the process.

Keeping those painful lessons in mind, in my new incarnation I became a master of balancing at the edge – at least looking after myself well enough to never burn out like that again.

And over the years I accomplished a lot with that strategy.

Much too much to mention here, although it was never enough  to defeat the irrational fear that whenever I didn’t live up to my own superhuman expectations, such as working 24/7 seven days a week, it was because the doctors were right (even though they said they would know within three years of the accident if their worst predictions were warranted, and I’ve taken every measure to disprove it myself).

But for roughly the last year and a half I’ve had a really good and steady client who’s provided me with a more stable income than I’ve ever had (and great work for top-notch, super professional editors).

That has also rewarded me with the peace and room to contemplate my life so far, even though – weirdly enough - getting off that path of constant worrying and getting used to regular pay was hard at first and took some getting used to.

Of all things, this process reminds me of something Dr John Marks told me when I was doing a piece on the so-called «Liverpool project», which involved prescribing heroin to drug addicts.

He talked about how addicts, when no longer governed by the constant worry of where to get their next fix, finally had time to look themselves in the mirror and reflect over what they had done with their lives.

Now, I don’t want to get into the debate about prescribing heroin or providing drugs substitution therapy here, it’s a complex one, but, for me, regular pay has been like Dr Mark’s described.

It was a bit like, without the constant worry about finding enough work to pay my bills hanging over me, I finally had time to look in the mirror and see how totally unsustainable my life was.

Actually, that’s not quite accurate: I’ve realised that my lifestyle was unsustainable for many years, but regular pay gave me room to do something about it – to put what I’ve dubbed “project sustainable living” into practice:

I’ve worked really hard to give myself semi-regular business hours, get enough sleep, eat regularly, take regular breaks, exercise regularly, schedule time for down time and spare time, and all the other things normal people do.

I’ve put in pretty substantial effort to take unnecessary stress out of my daily schedule, get out of the constant flight or fright mode and, in short: take better care of myself.

To other people who take such things for granted, this might seem insane or just weird, but for me not constantly putting work before everything else has been a damn hard, and steep, learning curve.

If you’re used to living in a constant state of emergency, normality doesn’t come easy, nor, regardless of how you live your life, does changing deeply set patterns of reactions.

But it is very rewarding, not at least because taking better care of myself has made me a lot more effective. This year I’ve even been able to ease my reliance on stress crutches such as caffeine, even go without for days and weeks.

The downside is I feel I just can’t go on with my freelancing ways, not for even a day more.

Of course, I still do some work on and off for clients as I do have bills to pay.

I still love my work, that hasn’t changed in any way.

But I really struggle to find the energy for pitching as it feels like I’m just perpetuating the lifestyle I know I need to leave behind by doing so.

In short, I need that permanent job - preferably tomorrow.

Oh, and my LinkedIn profile is here (and until that permanent job comes along, I still take on freelance work).

For the record, I am of course applying and interviewing for jobs as well, loads of them, but I have great faith in the internet's ability to connect me with opportunities and people I might not otherwise have come across.

The Icelandic soap opera continues

 In December 2008, angry protesters branded both Geir Haarde, Iceland’s then prime minister, and David  Oddsson, then head of the country’s central bank, as «Iceland’s bin Laden» - blaming them in equal parts for the country’s complete financial meltdown (see my photos below).

Now, the former could face criminal charges for the global financial meltdown, while the latter is one of two joint editors of Iceland’s newspaper of record, Morgunbladid.

How surreal is that?

According to The Daily Mail earlier this week:

Pall Hreinsson, the supreme court judge appointed to head the Special Investigation Commission that issued a government-commissioned report detailing the litany of mistakes made in the lead-up to the bank meltdown, singled out seven former officials including Mr Haarde and central bank chief David Oddsson for particular criticism.

No other officials besides Mr Haarde were referred for prosecution to the court.

Now, I was just going to dip into this story briefly.

I was fascinated by how things had turned out when I read the news about Haarde this week since I covered the Icelandic freesheet market extensively from 2006 – 2009/10 (media cross ownership being a particularly colourful story in the country, closely linked to the financial meltdown), and reported extensively from the dire situation in Icelandic media following the financial meltdown.  

But the twists and turns of this story are just too incredible.





I noticed that Olafur Stephensen, who was editor of Morgunbladid, considered to be the newspaper closest the conservative Independence party which Haarde and Oddsson both represent, had now become editor of Frettabladid. That is, Frettabladid the legendary freesheet so closely linked to Baugur. Just how close those links once were becomes obvious for all when reading this story on why Frettabladid’s former editor, Jon Kaldal, was fired.

For the record, I should say that I conducted long interviews with both Kaldal, then editor of Frettabladid, and Stephensen, then editor of Morgunbladid, when I was in Reykjavik working on my story on the crisis in Icelandic media in December 2008.

Both cast an interesting light on the many events leading up to the crisis.

At the time, Stephensen had not received his monthly salary and could only pray someone would rescue Morgunbladid so his salary would be paid before Christmas. 

But it is perhaps no wonder that the country’s newspaper economy, with its close links to major companies and banks, was struggling at the time seeing that the entire country was on the verge of financial collapse. 

(Media cross interests and cross ownership on Iceland was so extensive at the time that it still makes my head spin, but an Icelandic tabloid editor I spoke to explained it in clear terms thus: ” You know, the sugar daddy behind DV and Fréttablaðið was Baugur, but the sugar daddy behind Morgunbladid was Björgólfur Guðmundsson? … Now everyone is on his or her own because our sugar daddies are dead” )

According to Gylfi Magnússon, a University of Iceland economist who gave witness to the Landsdómur trial of former Icelandic Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde on Friday, the Central Bank of Iceland effectively went bankrupt in October 2008 when its board decided to loan Kaupþing Bank EUR 500 million in an effort to save the latter.

He explained that although the Central Bank said at the time that the loan represented only a fifth of its foreign capital reserves, in reality most of that money was not readily accessible.

Gylfi was drafted in to the minority government from February 2009, after Geir Haarde resigned, as an un-elected expert commerce and trade minister (Icenews has more on this latter story)

Okay, I’ll stop there. I could easily see myself moving temporarily to Reykjavik to write a book on all this, but I expect those books already have or are being written.

Schibsted looks to Apple for new payment solution

If paying would be as easy as across various devices as with iTunes, would readers feel more inclined to pay for editorial content and classifieds?

Apple has introduced a new standard for paying for content, which makes most other payment solutions look unnecessarily complicated in comparison.

The media’s dream of making a fortune on the back of that, on devices such as iPhone and iPad, has not turned out to quite as quick and easy to implement as many hoped, but what if media could emulate Apple’s pay-with-a-click revolution with their own similar solutions?

These days Schibsted, according to, is rolling out an Apple-inspired payment solution, named SPiD, for all its many digital platforms. SPiD will be set up to remember you if, say you first log in on Schibsted’s Norwegian tabloid VG to read something and then go to Schibsted’s classifieds site to advertise something for sale.

In January, Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet became the first Schibsted-paper to start using the service, VG is to start using it this month and the company’s other media houses and classified sites are due to follow.

- The idea is that it will work as simply as iTunes with a «click here» to pay, Sverre  Munck, Schibsted’s executive vice president of strategy and international editorial, told Kampanje.

That sounds good to me.

Apple’s «pay-with-a-click» has certainly made me buy quite a bit of stuff, mostly eBooks via Kindle, I might not have otherwise bought. It’s now much easier to buy a book than a chocolate on a whim, not entirely a good thing for a booklover such as myself (or at least not for my budget).

But the price and content for sale must be right. Schibsted has had success with the paid-for section of, Aftonbladet Pluss though, and I think its pricing strategy for e.g. the tablet edition of VG has been pretty spot on too. They’ve kept the price low (about £5 a month) and not been tempted to bundle it with print as several other Norwegian media companies have.

Maybe it’s a different picture for families, but I can’t see the point of subscribing to both the iPad and print editions, as I only read the latter properly during weekends. But then again, I might also be biased (for the record: Schibsted-owned VG has been my main client for the last year and a half).

How to avoid the app trap: Path, iOS and protecting your sources

Amid a flurry of privacy breaches and proposed spy laws, has storing your contact book in a digital format simply become untenable if you have sources you desperatly need to protect?

This question has been on my mind repeatedly over the last two weeks, following news about new spy laws and how various apps steal all the contacts you have stored on your smartphone.

For my part, I wasn't too surprised about the "revelations" about apps such as Path stealing your contact book. Testing new apps has been a regular part of my job for the last year and half, and I always check what access demands they make (and they tend to be extensive).

As a result, I've found myself using my old-school contact book more and more in that period. It's pretty standard for an app to ask or demand access to the contacts stored in your phone and in various apps you have on your phone (Gmail, Twitter, Facebook etc), your location etc so journalists need to think through what apps they use, what contacts they store in their smartphones or both very carefully.

I'm reminded of Charles Arthur's excellent article "They've got your number" from a few years back, which admittedly looked at how new legislation might affect journalists' ability to protect their sources - but the challenges are many of the same as with the new app trap.

I've written more extensively on this topic in Norwegian following the Path-revelation here, but here's a collection of recent links I've come across since writing that post: 

I must admit I feel a kind of cynical resignation over all this, what's your take?

Journalism school to revise curriculum in the aftermath of Norway terror attacks

Crisis reporting is set to become integral part of a three year bachelor degree in journalism, if plans to revise the degree’s curriculum go ahead.

- Today you can go through a three years journalism degree without receiving any training in how to cover terror and catastrophes, Trond Idaas, whose survey of the Norwegian journalists who covered the 22/7 terror attacks was a key inspiration for the suggested changes, said when his survey was published.

Idaas is an advisor at the Norwegian Journalist Union and has also written a masters thesis on the experiences of journalists covering the Tsunami in 2004. He feels it is very important that crisis reporting becomes an integral part of journalism training.

Besides, his survey found that more than 40 per cent of the journalists covering the tragic events in Oslo and on Utöya on 22/7 had less than five years of journalistic experience (July being in middle of the summer holidays in Norway) .

This finding has, according to Journalisten, been an important reason for the journalism school at Oslo and Akershus University College to suggest making crisis reporting an integral part of its bachelor degree. Also, there was widespread public reactions to the use of live broadcasts from Utvika on 22/7, when some of those intereviewed quite obviously were in a state of shock.

Idaas said integrating crisis reporting in the curriculum, such as suggested at Oslo and Akershus University College, is "quite revolutionary and not even widespread internationally"

Looking through the text books from when I did my journalism degree at City University in London, I could find precious little mention of how to cover terror and catastrophes (but then I handed in my masters thesis only weeks after 9/11, which may help to explain the abscence - though we did have a lot about war reporting, which makes it seem strange).

The only mention I can find of the topic is a chapter on "How to cover major incidents" in David Randall’s eminent "The Universal Journalist" (I always did like that book). That chapter is however, very instructive – also on what not to do.

For my own part, one direct result of the debates about the media coverage of 22/7 was to contact two of the journalists who covered the hit-and-run accident that almost killed me when I was 17 to thank them for being so professional when interviewing me while I was in shock after the accident.

Now, in terms of interviewing people in shock, my case can’t really be compared to 22/7 as I gave my first interview months after the accident.

But I was certainly in shock then, and for several years after the accident: years when I wasn’t quite sure whether I was just living in a dream (or nightmare), when it often felt like my life was just some surreal movie, when I lost all sense of fear etc

In that state I could easily have said yes to the journalist who, when the case came to court, wanted me to pose for a photo shaking hands with the guy who ran me down for the ”I forgive you”-story  the journalist seemed to have pre-written (which he never got. More on that story here )

Over all though, talking to the media mostly just felt therapeutic back then.

Since I didn’t have any memory of the accident it also helped me piece everything that had happened together. I even met the guy whose car my dog stopped, the one who called the ambulance in the nick of time after my dog alerted him to where I lay unconscious and critically wounded, on a TV show - all very surreal.

But my story was only about a car accident - with the big catastrophes, riots and terror attacks we've seen recently all kinds of ethical dillemmas are multiplied and new ones emerge. The sheer scale of it all is in itself a massive challenge.

In general though, I think it may prove very benificial to make crisis reporting an integral part of journalism training.

Not all journalism students go on to become journalists, but handling communication in times of crisis is something all communication professionals are likely to be called upon to do when they least expect it. 

Just think of the many tumultuous and often tragic indidents of 2011.

Also, being prepared makes dealing with disasters, however tragic, easier.

Idaas said his research shows more experienced journalists, and certainly journalists used to covering war and atrocities, deal with the impressions more efficiently and are far less likely to suffer from delayed stress reactions than inexperienced journalists.

Despite rumours to the contrary, journalists are not immune to the impressions from the many traumas of disaster. Nor are police, firemen and other emergency workers.

So 22/7 will also be a test of how well the organisations employing any of these workers handle the aftermath of crisis, that remains to be seen.




Will we see state-controlled intranets start replacing the Internet in 2012?

"I think we’re beginning to see the fragmentation of the Internet into numerous state-controlled intranets."

The words belong to author and investigative journalist Misha Glenny whom I interviewed about his new book, «Dark Market: Cyberthieves, Cybercops and You», when he was in Oslo to talk at an IT-security conference early November. I also reviewed the book and found it a fascinating read.

But I was reminded of his prediction when reading this piece on Iran recently:

"If you think anti-piracy legislation like SOPA and Spain's so-called Sinde law are as far-reaching as it gets, you obviously don't live in Tehran.

"...Web censorship in the Islamic republic is nothing new, but this latest initiative cranks things up quite a few notches and paves the way for a government-approved domestic intranet that will be completely cut off from the public World Wide Web we all know and love. Iranians are already reporting painfully slow Internet connections and difficulty accessing certain sites or using VPNs, the Wall Street Journal reports."

Iran may be a special case but all the current, sometimes really far-out, attempts to police the internet often depress me.

The suggestion by an EU polictian to build internet surveillance into every operating system is one example (thanks for the link, Leo). SOPA is of course another, although there were some good news on the SOPA-front this week - with The White House coming out against SOPA and DNS blocking

But how worried should we be about all this?

As mentioned in my previous post, I would love for JP Rangaswami to be right, that what we're seeing are just the last, desperate attempts of the dinosaurs - as he describes in this paragraph:

"DMCA. Hadopi. Digital Economy Act. ACTA. SOPA. Yup, with the passage of time, the level of desperation is getting higher, the clauses are getting less and less workable, making the laws harder to enforce, to prosecute, socially, politically, economically. It gets harder to sponsor them when you have information from sites like Maplight available to all; it even gets harder to support, as GoDaddy found out recently.  We live in a world where trust is an increasingly important currency, and where transparency is the mint that produces that currency. So it’s over. It may not appear so, but it is."

As the financial climate keeps getting worse, and the protests against those in power keeps getting louder I fear that may not be the case. I fear Douglas Rushkoff may be right that the Internet in its current form is unredeemable. But I would love nothing better than to see my fears proved wrong.

Update 16 January: On the same topic, check out Cory Doctrow's notes on how "SOPA is DYING; it's evil Senate twin, PIPA, lives on"

New year, new opportunities (even to see the end of SOPA)

I have so much I want to blog about from last year and for this, but I guess I'm suffering from a bit of a blogger's block.

In the meantime, here's wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year and a link to a much more optimistic outlook on law proposals such as SOPA, and how it all will play out, than what I've held until now:

"SOPA is a terrible act of legislation because of some of the words used in the bill. Words that were put in by people desperately trying to preserve the problems of the past. And the level of desperation is a good measure of the way time is running out."

I'm not sure if I fully share the optimism, but as always lots of food for thought from JP Rangaswami in this blogpost on why he's excited about 2012.


Anders Behring Breivik joins the Unabomber, David Copeland and Zacarias Moussaoui

What do these terrorists have in common? The have all been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenics.

The psychiatrists tasked with determining the mental state of Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik today declared him to be criminally insane.

According to their evaluation, the terrorist who killed 77 people in Norway this summer is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia - just like the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, whose manifesto  Brevik copied large sections from word by word for his own manifesto.

The conclusions by the state appointed psychiatrists are of course controversial, and are bound to be debated for a long time. Many feel that this, declaring Breivik insane, is a way of letting hateful extremist ideology off the hook.

«Muslim terrorists are a product of Islamic hate-rhetoric. Norwegian terrorists on the other hand, could not possibly operate on the basis of an ideological background. No sir. The explanation for Norwegian-bred terror is to be found in the brain chemistry of the perpetrator,» wrote Norwegian blogger Paal Hivand (my translation).

There is some truth to that, but I suspect we might find various personality disorders or psychiatric disorders if we look closer at many terrorists and mass-killers, regardless of ideology.

The case that instantly sprang to mind when I read about the psychiatrists' conclusions today was Ted Kaczynski.  Comparing the two cases reveal fascinating similarities.

As Kaczynski, Breivik has also rejected the diagnosis, is likely to reject a plea for insanity from his defense and is also likely to claim paranoid schizophrenic  is a "political diagnosis”

This piece in Psychology Today is very interesting on that account:

Several (but not all) of the forensic psychiatrists and psychologists who examined Kaczynski diagnosed him as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia ...Though his defense attorneys tried to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, Kaczynski refused, perhaps in part due to denial about his illness, a very common symptom of schizophrenia; or perhaps because of his own narcissism, not wanting to be maligned as mentally ill.

And it goes on:

….Terrorism is itself a form of madness. Perpetrators of terrorism express their rage at the world destructively, in a desperate, last-ditch and sometimes suicidal attempt to gain recognition, fame or glory for themselves and their cause and, ultimately, to give some shred of meaning to their otherwise meaningless lives. Terrorism is typically an infantile and narcissistic act of violence stemming from profound feelings of impotence, frustration, and insignificance.

That is perhaps why we find many other terrorists and mass-killers, from different ideological backgrounds, who have been diagnosed as  paranoid schizophrenics.

Among them, David John Copeland, who became known as the "London Nail Bomber" after a 13-day bombing campaign in aimed at London's black, Bangladeshi and gay communities, and admitted terrorist and 9/11 co-conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. Evidence was also said to strongly support that Virgina Tech- Killer Seung-Hui Cho had paranoid schizophrenia.

Still, it’s not an easy conclusion to swallow in regard to Anders Behring Breivik, who meticulously planned and prepared his terrorist attack for many years.

I have read his manifesto twice, and he comes across as many things, certainly a narcissist, but insane? I'm not so sure.

Breivik may have grandiose and delusional ideas about saving Norway, his own importance in history, segregating races, breeding true Norwegians etc, but so did Hitler. If Breivik is criminally insane, why wasn’t Hitler?

However, at this stage it’s difficult to make any bombastic conclusions about Breivik's case as there are so many things we simply don’t know about the 230-page long psychiatric report on him.

So far, we’ve only heard the main conclusions, and very little about the background for how the psychiatrists arrived at them.

But what we do know is that with Breivik labelled both psychotic and paranoid schizophrenic - if these evaluations are not contested at the next stage of this process - it is very unlikely he will be allowed to give any of those long political speeches to the jury he had planned to make.

Neither will journalists be quite so keen on interviewing him. That would raise all sorts of ethical conundrums...

57-year-old made staff reporter

You have to wonder at the state of our industry when the story about how a newspaper just employed a 57-year-old news reporter made headline news yesterday.

And no, I'm not thinking that the news site was wrong to run it, which it did under the broader headline "57-year-old gets permanent job" - but it really makes me wonder about the state of the world in general, and about the media industry in particular.

It's devastating that we live in such an ageist time that such a story is headline news, pretty much regardless of profession, and it's particularly sad that this is especially true in our industry and that many resourceful people with very valuable experience are simply let go, or unable to find new jobs, when they reach a certain age.

Amusingly, I vivildy remember being told at 26 that I was getting old for the news industry by a former UK news executive (we never worked together, it was just a piece of friendly advice).

Of course, sometimes it's the other way around: young reporters with valuable multimedia skills find themselves the first to loose their jobs in financial crisis'. These matters often depend on issues such as how strong the journalist union is in a certain country or in a certain media company.

But I do wish we could look more towards getting the right balance of skills and experience, and not let age become a variable in itself.

At least to me, age has always been a state of mind.

What global meltdown?

"Yes, yes, I understand perfectly: the global meltdown," said a British journalist I interviewed on Thursday when I told him the day was a busy news day so the story might run later.

"No, it's about the catalogue of errors made on 22/7, revealed on 22/7 and in the aftermath of 22/7," I replied.

Funny, albeit perfectly understandable, how the key headlines still revolve around 22/7, I thought to myself - and wrote as much on Google+

Then came Friday, Norway's then minister of justice and police resigned in a move, which, despite all protestations to the contrary, ended up being all about 22/7.

And today the terrorist behind 22/7, Anders Behring Breivik, will get to explain his heinous crimes in an open court hearing.

People, including many who survived the shootings on Utöya, are queuing up to see him, and the court will have to prevent him from turning the hearing into a PR-show for his manifesto - the one he claims the atrocities he committed on 22/7 only were a marketing ploy to promote the ideas in.

The global meltdown? It will just have to take the sideline for a while.

Norway’s minister of justice resigns to spend more time with his family

- I’ve cried almost every day since 22/7, Knut Storberget told the media when he resigned as Norway’s minister of justice and police Friday.

But he vehemently denied his resignation had anything to do with the Ministry’s growing catalogue of errors in handling the twin terror attacks on Oslo and Utöya 22 July.

It had nothing to do with how Norwegian police was slammed for poor rampage response on 22/7.

Nothing to do with how the emergency communications system broke down on 22/7.

Nothing to do with how a witness alerted the police to no avail about a suspicious, fully armed man (the terrorist) leaving the Oslo-bomb scene before he took off for Utöya.

Nothing to do with how the terrorist could park his car right outside the Government headquarters he bombed to pieces despite weighty reports recommending that area be shut off for traffic.

Nothing to do with how the terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, cannot be sentenced as a terrorist because the police’s computer systems are so out of date (it runs on Windows NT 4.0) they can’t handle the ”new” penal code passed in 2009.  

And nothing to do with all the other critique levelled at Storberget recently, but rather a move he had planned together with his family as early as February.

However, in a move slightly more related to the events on 22/7, the Ministry itself will be renamed to the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness

”…the Ministry’s internal organisation will be examined in order to improve the Ministry’s ability to handle crises. The Ministry will be given additional resources. In order to visualise these changes, it has today been decided that the Ministry of Justice and the Police from 1 January 2012 will have its name changed to the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness,” we could read in the same press release that announced Storberget’s resignation.

So now what?

Storberget has been replaced by Labour Party veteran Grete Faremo, a move I saw more than one online commenter applaud, and greet with such sentiments as ”finally a minister of justice who has balls”.

Maybe she’ll even have the balls to ban vans and cars from parking right outside the entrance to the Norwegian parliament like this (spotted by Pia Prestmo on 13 October 2011):


Rude tweet hits six o’clock news

Now, what did you have to do again in the good old days to get yourself on the evening news? These days all it takes is a tweet.

Arguably it might take what most people would call a tweet too far, but still… This week I was invited to discuss what is probably the most shocking tweet I’ve come across on a six o’clock news show  – with the guy who wrote it and a few others.

The set-up was somewhat surreal:

Last Sunday a far-left-wing journalist-author wrote the mentioned tweet in reply to the debate editor of Norway’s newspaper of record, Aftenposten.

The latter had  recently written a short and scalding, if still civilised, review of the former’s recent book.

To which the former replies to the openly gay editor with a tweet that somehow manages to include such phrases as ”suck negro cock” and ”jewish cunt”  in the same tweet.

The political editor of Aftenposten replies with a harsh leader on the implied racism in that tweet and he, the tweet-writer, the head of Norway’s Union of Journalists and me are invited to discuss the affair on the before mentioned evening news show.

It should be mentioned that the guy who wrote the offending tweet was quick to apologise on Twitter, but on the evening news we also learned that the tweet was meant as a joke and was paraphrasing a scene from a Norwegian movie (”facts” which had entirely escaped me before that session on the evening news).

Aftenposten’s political editor made the very fair point that had this tweet been sent by someone from the populist far right it would have created a media upheaval, and the news presenter tried to get a discussion going on whether journalists should be allowed to tweet privately...

Now, imagine: Journalist says something stupid, rude and racist on TV? Should we therefore ban all journalists from TV? Of course not, and no one was seriously suggesting during that TV slot to ban journalists from using social media privately either – but it was one of the topics being discussed, as well as all the awful kind of things people can bring themselves to say online…

I must admit I’m not quite sure what to conclude from all this, it was a somewhat surreal event, but it’s definitely part of that brave new media landscape of ours…

The Utöya election and lessons in social media campaigning

“I for one want to vote the Utøya-generation into office.”

I’m not certain where I read that statement now: on Facebook, Twitter, blogs.

It probably flashed past me frequently on all those platforms after 22/7, and after the municipal and county elections last moth it’s clear that many people did exactly that:

Several of those who so tragically lost their lives on Utöya were elected, as were several of those who survived the atrocities.

That must be unparalleled: How, as a symbolic action, people voted for those who lost their lives but who’s names had not removed from the election lists.

As for those who survived the atrocities and were elected, it will be interesting to see how their influence will play out.

22/7 was certainly a big influence on the election, but mostly in a positive way.

Let it be that after 22/7 too many politicians just trotted out the same old slogans and solutions which now feels oddly like ghosts from a bygone age.

There were also politicians who met the tragedy with great compassion and strength, who somehow became much more real, more human as a result of it.

That side of them was probably always there, just now we got to see it.

I thought a lot better of many politicians for it. Not that it made me vote for someone I otherwise wouldn’t have voted for, but I hope it will lead to a wider recognition that letting your guard down can be a good thing – even for a politician.

Also, for the first time in perhaps a decade or more I felt good about how I cast my vote. See, in the words of an acquaintance, I voted for the internet party.

Not that there is a party by that name in Norway, but it was the first election where social media played a major role for me:

I voted for lots of really clever people I know from the Internet (in Norway you can cast personal votes for your favorite candidates from more than one party at municipal and county elections).

But among those candidates there wasn’t one I voted for because I’d seen him or her with a Twitter-profile stating their name and their political party.

I never follow those kind of Twitter-users back. All the folks I voted for were people I know, either just online, or online and in real life, for a long time and not primarily as politicians.

They were all people I “know” because of the work they do, the blogs they write, or because we have interests in common.

In fact, while casting my vote I found myself thinking I could easily have voted for a blogger I’m a big fan of despite being on the opposite side of the political divide.

What I’m trying to say, both when it comes to my “internet party” and those politicians who let their guard down and thereby became more real, more human after 22/7:

Personality matters, humanity matters, being real/genuine/allowing yourself to be vulnerable and go off script is a good thing.

Nothing revolutionary there you may say. In fact it’s all very Cluetrain.

But it is also quite the opposite of the social media strategy many politicians and/or political parties seem to subscribe to.

To them just getting a Twitter-profile spewing out politically correct or mundane and largely uninteresting stuff seems to equal a social media strategy.

Well, it’s not a very successful social media strategy.

It has to be personal.

Not necessarily in the sense that you have to share personal stuff, far from, but you have to get a sense of the person behind the social media profile even if it’s just their genuine passion for a certain subject.

But it has to be genuine, and it’s definitely not a short-term fix.


Steve Jobs, innovation & serendipity

Writing about Steve Jobs and his philosophy of life for work today I was reminded about liberation management.

I was really struck by this video (which must have travelled all over the web by now), Jobs 2005 Stanford commencement speech, and how it gels with the other things we know about his life.

I especially found myself wondering how many leaders of disruptive and/or innovative companies subscribe to something along the lines of this statement:

”Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

It reminded me about liberation management as I said (I’ll return to that), but also of how Google's Marissa Mayer once described Google's culture and how it could reinvent the rules online in the early days (quoted in Steven Levy’s excellent book about Life in the GooglePlex which I reviewed for work around Easter).

”You cannot understand Google unless you know that both Larry and Sergey was Montessori kids," she said, and continued: ”It’s really baked into their personalities, to do things their own way, to not respect authority. Do something because  it seems sensible, not because someone told you to”

Page has later said he thinks there some truth in this.

But this all comes down to how important it is to think outside the box to be truly innovative.

Oh, and in Jobs case (whom I wrote more about here for work, in Norwegian) about trusting that serendipity can benefit, and even be crucial to, your career.

Which brings me to liberation management.

It’s just about five years since first I blogged about Tom Peters’ 50 strategies for increasing the odds for getting innovative ideas and creating innovative companies, or at least for attracting a little nuttiness into your life, so I think it stands repeating.

One of my favourite strategies, which writing about Jobs’ philosophy of life reminded me of today, is:

48. Nurture peripheral vision. The interesting “stuff” usually is going on beyond the margins of the professional’s ever-narrowing line of sight

I don’t agree with all of these, especially not on constant reorganisations, but they offer food for thought and here’s some other good ones:

31. Spend 50 percent of your time with “outsiders.” Distributors and vendors will give you more ideas in five minutes than another five-hour committee meeting.

3. Ready. Fire. Aim. (Instead of Ready. Aim. Aim. Aim. ...)

11. Ask dumb questions. “How come computer commands all come from keyboards?” Somebody asked that one first; hence, the mouse

14. Don’t back away from passion. “Dispassionate innovator” is an oxymoron

9/11: Internet just couldn't keep up to speed

What I remember most vividly about 9/11 is a woman alternately sobbing, crying and screaming over the phone line as the drama unfolded on the TV-screen.

I was at home in East Finchley, London, working on my masters project, when my ex-partner called me and asked me to turn on the television. Maybe he called me twice, I'm not sure now, but he was working for Aon at the time, and Aon had 1100 employees in the South Tower.

A key competitor, Marsh and McLennan, had several hundred in the North Tower. Luckily, my ex was in the London office, but there were many Americans working in that office too, not to mention how so many had close ties to colleagues New York.

So I have no idea who that woman in Aon's London office was, maybe there was more than one, but those terrible sounds of distress over the phone line while I was simultaneously talking to my ex and watching the drama on TV is what I remember most strongly about the day.

Those sounds of distress somehow made the events of the day both more heart-wrenching and more real as I have to admit that what unfolded on the TV-screen was almost too surreal to grasp.

I remember too being frustrated by how slow my internet connection was, I was using a dial-up modem, and by how slow many international news sites were to load and update.

Still, internet, TV and the mobile were my key sources of information on the unfolding events, even though my mobile wasn't smart back then and only was used for phone calls and text messages (on 22/7, all my information for five hours or more after the bomb went off came via either my own or friends' smartphones).

I do wish Twitter was around.

I've seen some pundits say they were glad it wasn't, but what we saw with the recent terror in Norway was that even though rumours abounded the twitterati didn't go over the top with rumours and misguided, hateful attacks the way we saw on Facebook.

I also wish I had the sense to keep up with the blogging adventures friends of mine embarked on just after 9/11. But as the job market took a nose dive, and I handed in my masters thesis just after 9/11, all I did for two months there was sending out hundreds of job applications. 

Since I couldn't even seem to be able to land an admin job, I stopped by three local pubs one day - and was offered a job by two of them.

Amazingly, taking up a job in the pub I did turned out to be a brilliant career move as I met one of my most important mentors there - and many of the regulars gave me lots of tips for jobs and other stuff (actually, working in a pub is a lot like being a blogger - but that's a topic for another blog post, one I've failed to finish for the last three years or so;-) )

And the rest is history, isn't that what they say?

Actually, I caught up with the blogging phenomena one year later, in 2002, and there's so much to say on 9/11, so many thoughts and feelings - especially after the atrocities of 22/7 in Norway this summer - that I thought I'd better just stick to the facts for now.

The newspaper man who lost his foot on 22/7

This mobile snapshot keeps fascinating me. I snapped it on my way out from work 8 August when Oslo was still full of roses after so many had showed their support for the victims of 22/7 by leaving roses all over town.

As some of you will know, this is just in front of VG's headquarters, and the statue, who lost his foot in the bomb attack, sits just across the street from the Government Headquarters were the bomb went off. Still, I'm thinking there must be so many meanings one can read into this photo: