The way Arctic regions are portrayed in mainstream media is seldom accurate. Exoticism and conflicts bring more clicks than in-depth stories about life in the North.
The panellists at the Arctic Media session at the Rovaniemi Arctic Spirit all agreed that local and regional media serve an important purpose for the people in the Arctic.
Jane George, Senior Reporter at Nunatsiaq News said that in the remote regions of Canada resources are a huge issue for journalism. Distances are long and digital connections poor. Journalists are also pressed for time.
“Internet is changing the way we publish. Scandals, crimes and disasters seem to bring the most readers”, she lamented.
“It is scary that we can see by the minute what people are reading”, agreed Antti Kokkonen, Editor-in-chief of Lapin Kansa Newspaper.
“But I believe that people will read good stories, if they can just find them. We need to promote quality journalism, market first-rate stories with hot words.”
Editor Thomas Nielsen works in Independent Barents Observer, an online newspaper based in Kirkenes, Norway that publishes cross-border news in English and in Russian. He considers the high north a great area to be a journalist, but also difficult, because of the distances. Their newspaper has found cooperation with other small media across the circumpolar world the best way to survive.
Rosa-Máren Magga has worked at Yle Sápmi as a journalist. She considers indigenous media best placed to report indigenous issues.
Research professor Florian Stammler of the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland thinks that media can be a means of enriching and preserving indigenous culture. He has helped mainstream media make stories on indigenous issues in Russia. Sometimes researchers also act as gatekeepers, to keep some media away from the indigenous communities.
The “Arctic media safaris” is a phenomenon all the panel participants are familiar with: southern journalists parachuting to the Arctic for a few hours and going back with sensational reports.
“Arctic is a popular theme, and so many bad stories are written about it. To get your facts right, you have to know what you are writing about. You have to invest in the region”, Jane George said.
“An interview is the worst way to get connected to people and to relevant issues. When you understand the people and the life, it changes the questions”, Florian Stammler concurred.
Rosa-Máren Magga noted that distance is not the only reason reporters from the south do not always get their facts straight.
“There are often misunderstandings that are difficult to correct. It is not only the distance, but also the way of thinking. Local journalists understand the community.”
Photo: Marko Junttila/Arctic Centre