Journalism cultures in Russia and in Finland

Jukka Pietiläinen of the University of Helsinki came to SJMC to teach a course on Finish media and to participate in the conference Comparative media studies in todays world: journalism cultures in various socio-political contexts. In his interview to our portal he talks about differences and similarities of Finnish and Russian journalism and explains the meaning of press freedom in both countries.

- Jukka, how do you understand the term journalism culture?

- As far as I understand, its a kind of concept, which includes quite broad area of journalism and media all in all. Not only content, but also things like journalistic education, ethics, etc. Practically everything connected with this sphere.

- So could you please emphasize some principle differences between journalistic and culture in Finland and in Russia?

- First of all, it is about the scale. Finland is far smaller country and it really has a kind of influence. For example, there are much more foreign brands and magazines in Russia but there are very few of them in Finland. Another aspect is that total development of journalism in Finland is quite stable, while in Russia is has been dramatic thorough a couple of decades. In Finland its a normal thing when a young woman buys a magazine, which her grandmother read, but here in Russia those magazines, that are popular now, didnt exist 30 years ago. As for the content, most of it is similar in both countries, although there are some characterized elements. One of them is connected with political journalism, which is much more controlled by politicians in Russia. In Finnish papers you can find more criticism towards the government.

- What are other trends connected with media market in Russia, except this dramatic development?

- I would say that in some sense Russia is ahead of countries like Finland. What is happening in Russia now will happen in Finland in about ten years only. I mean such things like decline of newspapers and bloom of net-media.

- Once you mentioned that today Russian press is becoming less and less free. How does it come?

- So, there are less and less media where you may find some alternative voices, especially those, which criticize major politicians. The most part of the media is under control. And as you see, a lot of recourses have been reformed. For example, Dozhd television was taken out of normal broadcasting, but all of its content you may find in the Internet. Nevertheless, despite the fact that lots of media are controlled from the political side, you have alternative recourses. If you look at the main channels and newspapers, the level of freedom is about 50% in Finland, while in Russia it is not more that 20%. But when you look at the alternative voices, about 70% of them are somehow free in Russia, with only 40% in Finland.

- So which of these two relations is better in your opinion?

- Well, Im not really sure. In general, I would say that for stability of society the Finnish situation is more preferable. But the thing Im absolutely certain in is that alternative voices must be broadcasted and printed in the mainstream media. Otherwise, they appear in network, which is generally uncontrolled. When some ideas are not allowed to the broad public, they spread over narrow circles, which may cause serious problems and even dangers. Because of it I appreciate the way Finnish broadcasters behaved in 1970s, when the situation in the country was unstable: if students said that they wanted a revolution, they were allowed to express these ideas on the screen immediately. It was discussed, argued, but as a result, radical oppositionists had no time to do this revolution.

- As a media researcher you are interested in independent Russian papers, especially on the regional level. How is it going on with independent press in Finland?

- Of course, it is evidently that there is no totally independent press anywhere. There can be papers, which are less or more independent. As I see, the most important thing there is that the media should be oriented to the audience, to the general reader. And according to this criterion, I would say that today independence if Finnish press is bigger than it used to be. Today newspapers in Finland depend more on readers, and it makes me feel that Finnish press is getting more and more free.

Viktoria Drey