“Media coverage of the Nordic Region and Russia that is based on stereotypes can contribute to the creation of myths and misunderstandings among the public. This can damage co-operation between the Nordic Region and Russia,” says John Frølich, director of the Nordic Journalist Centre (NJC). “Good co-operation between Nordic and Russian journalists is needed if we’re to increase knowledge and understanding among Nordic and Russian people of each other’s countries,” he says. This is one of the purposes of the NJC’s Russian co-operation project – Nordic-Northwest Russian Journalist Co-operation – which provides journalists with additional training in media ethics and media legislation to enable them to disseminate knowledge about each other’s countries and shared topics such as sustainability and climate change.
Birth preparations for Russian men
The problem with media coverage based on stereotypes of “the others” on both sides of the Baltic Sea has been analysed in the NJC’s report: Russia in Nordic News Media. The report points out that the focus of the media is often on high-level politics and security issues on a very broad plain. The report aims to give editorial teams insight into news coverage in general and make them consider whether their coverage can be supplemented with other stories about their neighbours. NJC provides an example of how this can be done by way of its Next to Me project. Here, photojournalists from Russia and the Nordic Region were put together with the task of depicting day-to-day life on both sides of the Baltic Sea. The project resulted in visual narratives that rarely reach regular news coverage. The pictures have been collated in a book of the same name, Next to Me, where readers are treated to paternal birth preparations in Russia and home guard exercises in Denmark.
Differences in working conditions
Another focal point of the NJC is informing journalists of the different working conditions in the different regions.
“Journalistic co-operation must take into account different considerations, such as the different rules and legislation – and the consequences of breaking them – that apply to journalists in the Nordic Region and Russia. The objective is not to produce some sort of ‘Nordic factsheet’, but to show respect for each other, openly share challenges relating to ethics, for example, and give examples of how we’re tackling problems,” says Frølich. “The NJC’s most recent course for Nordic and Russian journalists was held in the Russian city of Petrozavodsk and looked at how to cover sensitive topics such as domestic violence, suicide, and sexual orientation. During the course, it became apparent that there can be huge differences in working conditions in the different countries when dealing with these topics. And nevertheless stories are written about such topics, because Russian journalists are masters at writing between the lines,” Frølich continues.
Key experiences from Russian local journalists
Another initiative for the sharing of experiences between journalists in the Nordic Region and Russia is the publication of a new book on journalism in Russian by Barents Press International with the support of the NJC. The book is based on the descriptions of 28 Russian local journalists of their day-to-day work and the associated do’s and don’ts. These are important insights that Nordic journalists can benefit from when producing journalism from Russia or working with their Russian colleagues.