By Enrique Tessieri
Is lack of knowledge about living in a society with a small foreign population an excuse for poor and deficient coverage of Finland’s ever-growing immigrant population? The editor of Finland’s leading daily, Helsingin Sanomat, told Lahti-based Etelä-Suomen Sanomat that it has aimed to raise immigrant, racism and tolerance issues since society and the political atmosphere has changed in the country.
Editor Riikka Venäläinen states that immigration is a relatively new phenomenon in Finland and therefore offered a sort of mea culpa. “…our job is to give background information, analysis and develop the story from a certain angle,” she said, “When that is done on a tight schedule, it’s pretty certain that we are guilty of very short-sighted conclusions. I accept the criticism that has to do with reporting on immigration issues.”
I am surprised by Venäläinen’s comment. Don’t Helsingin Sanomat reporters ever travel abroad? Don’t they have foreign spouses? What about foreign correspondents? Don’t they have any relatives who emigrated to countries like Sweden, Canada and the United States in the past 140-odd years? Haven’t they read our history?
Venäläinen’s admission sounds more like a poor excuse for doing a shoddy job. It reveals as well the lack of reporters with immigrant backgrounds covering such an important issue like cultural diversity in Finnish society. In a way it’s as if 99% men were reporters covering women’s rights issues.
But she does ask a good question at the end of the story whether the children of immigrants, who may speak perfect Finnish, should be called immigrants anymore.
Such a comment exposes, in my opinion, a bold statement by Helsingin Sanomat and how exclusive Finnish society is. How does Venäläinen think Finland could be a more inclusive society? Maybe that would be a good editorial that Helsingin Sanomat could write and show leadership.
Not all dailies in Finland appear to be as much in the dark about immigration and cultural diversity issues as Helsingin Sanomat. Some good examples are Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, Aamulehti, Kansan Uutiset as well as others.
Writing about immigration is like reporting on any social issue that takes place in our society. The benchmarks are the same: inclusion, social justice, equality, fairness and acceptance.
These are values we should already know at elementary school.