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Finland – (E9) Participation

Score in short:

Audience participation in the news process is increasing, but there was some skepticism about the productiveness of all new forms of participation.

Score in detail:

Many of the respondents noted that increasing citizen participation is inevitable, but finding productive and meaningful ways for the people to take part in the news process is still “up in the air” in many organizations. one respondent noted that the aim of participation is not to support citizens’ self-expression per se, but to support the media organizations’ aims of gaining valuable content that enriches journalism. Many respondents also suggested that they find unmoderated online discussion forums largely unproductive, but that the process of finding more consequential ways for people to participate is still unfinished.

Most Finnish media have also augmented traditional audience surveys with new methods of audience panels and social networks to discover the views and preferences of their audiences (Jyrkiäinen 2008, p. 10). In line with this, respondents invariably noted that media organizations today are generally more receptive to the preferences of the public than before.

The newsroom of the local newspaper Borgåbladet is always open to the public, and according to the editor-in-chief, it is fairly common for local citizens to step in with an idea for a news story. In case of larger media, the newsrooms are generally not open to the public. Most of the media, however, organize public debates and other local events that are open to the public. All news media also encourage readers to suggest ideas for news stories.

All newspapers examined also have a section for readers’ letters in their print edition, and forums for online discussions and/or possibilities for people to comment and initiate discussion on news stories. The Internet sites of news media typically also contain surveys, feedback features and other interactive content. The discussions forums of all leading national media generally attract a great deal of commentary, especially in relation to more controversial topics. The leading news media utilize user-generated content mainly in the form of photographs sent in by readers. For many respondents, publishing user-generated content was not a value in itself, but it would need to be justified on journalistic grounds. overall, the comments and views of the public are quite widely available in a variety of formats. Examples of more robust ways of incorporating citizens in the news process, however, are still lacking.