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Finland – (F7) Procedures on news selection and news processing

Score in short:

Stylebooks that include guidelines on the processing of news items are becoming more common, but their significance is still limited.

Score in detail:

According to a recent survey among journalists, formal rules and procedures for processing news items have recently become more common in Finnish journalism. often this development is associated negatively with “industrialized” and standardized forms of news production (Jyrkiäinen 2008, p. 9). Concurrently, it has also been suggested that there has been a gradual shift from a traditional individualistic journalistic culture towards more emphasis on co-operative news processing in Finnish newsrooms.

Defined stages for a news item before it is published are more common in periodicals, whereas daily news and online news, in particular, are usually published as quickly as possible with minimal processing.

Most of the media organizations have some type of stylebook, and these vary from simple instructions on layout and format to comprehensive guidelines that include values, ethical guidelines, and internal practices for news selection. In most cases, the guidelines are only for internal use, although the idea of making such documents publicly available has also gained some support. The Finnish News Agency, for instance, has a comprehensive stylebook freely available on its website. The company values and editorial guidelines that include both the ethical guidelines and the practical instructions of public broadcasting company YLE are also publicly available. Turun Sanomat, Iltalehti and MTV3 have comprehensive internal stylebooks. Those media that currently do not have a unified stylebook, including Helsingin Sanomat, reported that they were currently preparing such documents. Most editors-in-chief considered a stylebook to be necessary, but also noted that questions of news values and selection ultimately hinge on the journalistic culture and professional skills of each journalist.

In-house training for new journalists on the job varies. In newspapers, training typically consists of one-day training, which focuses on practical matters and less on journalistic principles or news criteria, whereas the electronic media houses have training programs of up to one week. Regular in-depth discussions on the past and forthcoming decisions on news values were highly valued by all respondents, but according to a recent survey of journalists, the general sentiment among Finnish journalists still seems to be that there is a need for more deliberation. According to the survey, most journalists also receive surprisingly little feedback from their superiors and colleagues. More feedback and meetings to discuss past decisions and published stories also ranked as the main method to improve journalists’ workplaces (Jyrkiäinen 2008, p. 33, 35).