Constructive Journalism Tested. This is an exclusive peek into the Danish test center for constructive journalism at the regional tv-station TV 2/FYN based in Funen, Denmark. The next year we give the mic to the staff of TV 2/FYN who has agreed to share failures and successes as they strive for the ambition to make their community better through constructive journalism. 

Blog: People will start to like us, when we stop being such an old and grumpy uncle



Two years ago I attended a summer garden party. I started talking with the person sitting next to me. A young local business woman. She used to be a local politician so she actually watched our daily news-broadcast, even though she was only 29 years old, and therefore - according to statistics - too young to be watching TV. She also followed TV 2/FYN news on web and social media. 

"She asked: Why are you so sad and grumpy at TV 2/FYN?"

– Lasse Hørbye Nielsen, Editorial Director, TV 2/FYN

When I found out that I was talking to a hardcore news fan, (and I thought, a hardcore TV 2/FYN fan), I looked forward to getting some excellent feedback from her. You know it’s always nice to be applauded for the excellent and critical journalism, that you do in the interest of the public. But she surprised me. 

She asked: “Why are you so sad and grumpy at TV 2/FYN?” and continued: 

“Why don’t you tell about the good things happening on our island. Why do you always cherry pick the really small issues, that don’t work? It is not representative of the state of things here!” 

I found it hard to give her an answer. Especially because she also had some very concrete examples. I was left almost speechless. 

We learn in journalism schools all around the world that the most important thing for a journalist is to be critical. About society. About the people who hold power. We are the ones who stop the bad guys, and maybe that is why, a journalist so often is the main character in the big Hollywood productions. We are the local hero fighting for the good by pointing out the bad. 

"Maybe people would actually pay for journalism that brought them hope"

– Lasse Hørbye Nielsen, Editorial Director, TV 2/FYN

That is all right. I still think that is important for journalism. But maybe we could do both. Be both critical and constructive? Maybe. Just maybe we could tell about the good guys doing good things for society and communities? Maybe we could be the young and fresh cousin at the family party? The one who has hope for the future. The one everyone wants to talk to, because she brings joy in everybody's eyes. Maybe we could stop being such a sad and grumpy uncle? 

Maybe that could be the solution to and savior of our troubled news business. Maybe people would actually pay for journalism that also brought them hope while still being critical and doing breaking news. 

It is difficult to convince journalists to have a new mission with their work. You have to train them all over and start at the beginning. You have to look at the big “why are we here”-question. That is the journey, we have departed on here in Funen. To do some good for the island we live on, with the people that live here. But with the clear message to the bad guys out there; “ we will still be watching you”.


Wed 13 November 2019 15:01 

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Blog: Together we make Funen better: Why “TV 2/Fyn” will become Denmark’s most constructive media house



TV 2/Fyn will be Denmark's most constructive media house next year. As in as simple as that.

We defined that target in our 2020 Strategy last year. And now, this fall of 2019, we are moving towards it. In 12 months our core of free, independent, power-critical and society-controlling journalism will be complemented by a whole new type of content.

It will not be easy. Getting there demands that we develop and find our own way of how to handle “constructive journalism”. We want it to become a new and completely integrated part of TV 2/Fyns's total news coverage. 

It will not stand alone. 

It will go hand-in-hand with critical journalism on a daily basis which – at least from my point of view - always will be, must be, the core and the whole premise of constructive journalism. This pillar is the foundation of all we do at our public service tv-station with a clear and responsible mission of serving our region in the middle of Denmark with trustworthy (and interesting) news.

Our constructive journalism ambition is a pledge to the 500.000 people in the region of Funen. 

It sounds like an easy path to take. After more than 30 years work in media business I know it’s not. But I know it’s necessary.

For also we at TV 2/Fyn can see that people all throughout the world – and in Denmark and in our region of Funen - are leaving traditional media like our regional public service station. Why? Because they are tired of studied media quarrels. Of the stream of problems presented without hope. Of the weighting and angling of the sensational and bizarre.

"This is exactly why we want to be Denmark's most constructive media house."

– Esben Seerup, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, TV2 Fyn

Instead, good folks settle for glimpses from social media, television entertainment and unreliable sources. Like chips instead carrots. Feeling excluded important community discussions. Losing trust in our politicians. Giving up on democracy, the conversation and the understanding of opinions other than its own.

We will try to do something about this at TV 2/Fyn. Turn the tide. Try something else. This is exactly why we want to be Denmark's most constructive media house. 

We are ready to do exactly that. Even though we know it is not as easy as it may sound.

The explanation is that we journalists are trained to be the opposite of constructive. We learn excactly that already in our first week at any journalism school or university.

Here, the important role of the media is presented as The Fourth Estate in a democratic society. Here we hear about the need for complete independence from any political or economic interest. We learn about the social responsibility that a professional editor - and reporter – must take, so that our journalism will focus on the unreasonable, the greedy and the unscrupulous where we see them. 

We thrive to become journalists that always must remember a critical approach as the most important starting point when choosing stories and prioritizing them. This is the whole pillar of fact-based news journalism. It sits in the walls of any editorial newsroom. It is embedded in both young and old reporters and editors. 

 TV2 Fyn_news room 1CEO & Editor-in-Chief Esben Seerup explains how a common ambition across management and reporters will be the key to the succesful implementation of constructive journalism.

That our journalism must inform citizens to be independent individuals. So they make their own decisions. Form their own opinions and attitudes. And thereafter: Get engaged in our democracy – local, regional, national, global – like most Danes love and feel part of.

This is how most newspapers, radio and television stations work with news in Denmark. We believe in that core and pillar. I know it. That feeling have been in my blood, bones and body since I attended journalism school more than 30 years ago.

We also do have that feeling today at TV 2/Fyn. We're even good at it. It's not something I write to boast about. 

This is what the people of Funen respond when asked about it. This 2019 summer in our annual brand analysis well over 1000 people stated that TV 2/Fyn clearly is the media house that most people point to as the most important for influencing the news agenda and opinion in our region. 

It is also TV 2/Fyn, which is perceived as the most credible media house. Even ahead of other credible media outlets such as the national news cast from “DR”, “TV 2” or our excellent, local and regional competitors here in our region.

Obviously, I am pleased with that position. Proud of it.

Because I know how hard TV 2/Fyn's ambitious staff have worked in the last seven years to reach this point, where I had the pleasure of being the boss. This has not come of its own accord. Therefore I know we will not become Denmark's most constructive media house if we do not continue to develop. And work hard to get there.

We do though, not start from scratch here. In recent years we have already experimented extensively with constructive journalism.

"I noticed firsthand how otherwise well-trained, critical, cool reporters gained new motivation."

– Esben Seerup, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, TV2 Fyn

For example, in the fall of 2017, when we together with a number of the other media houses in Funen made the largest campaign in Denmark to date to increase voter turnout among young people in the municipal elections. “Stem’rne” (“The Voices/Votes” in English)-campaign succeeded with creative, engaging, fun, innovative and engaging journalism in six wild weeks two years ago. 

The result in the region of Funen? The voter turnout in Funen increased twice as much as elsewhere in Denmark!

During the campaign I noticed firsthand how otherwise well-trained, critical, cool reporters gained new motivation and got energy by opening up to the idealistic flow of their hearts, usually packed away of professional, independent reasons. And the journalism did not become less relevant or indifferent because of this. 

On the contrary.

Since then, we have continued with a series of smaller, but equally constructive, engaging and genuinely idealistic projects and stories. This is why we dare to take the step fully with this ambition: To be Denmark's leader in this field.

We are quite prepared. We started a year ago by developing our overall 2020 Strategy in 2018. Started the preparations in the spring of 2019 – and were ready to start this fall. 

With a 15 month long plan starting with extensive teaching, training and a variety of experiments this fall – and planning to peak a year from now.

Here we get help from the best in the industry: Ulrik Haagerup and Orla Borg from the Constructive Institute in Aarhus University. Morten Skovsgaard from the Center for Journalism at the University of Southern Denmark. Morten Ro from the public powered journalism-tool, Hearken. Just to mention some of the many clever minds that we talk to all the time to figure out how to do this the right way.

However, the most important - and bravest - people are in our own house in the city of Odense, Fyn, Denmark. Namely TV 2/Fyn’s own almost 90 insightful and creative employees. They are the ones who took the plunge into unchartered territory. Those who develop both themselves and thus the TV 2/Fyn-journalism. The true heroes.

We have set aside a whole year+ for this first phase.

Here we must try out ideas. Practice. Train. Talk. Discuss. Find the boundaries of constructive journalism against our core of critical. Try again. And also dare to fail, because otherwise we have not tried enough. And remember that it is not until 2020 that we have to be in place.

"I am afraid that we can no longer be stopped in our ambition."

– Esben Seerup, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, TV2 Fyn

We have formulated our constructive ambition in our renewed slogan for the whole tv-station. It now states on our cars, adds, promos, lingo: "Together we make Funen better".

I hope you who read this will follow us in our work. Maybe even help us and even make your contribution to what you think about our direction.

However, a word of warning here: I am afraid that we can no longer be stopped in our ambition. Because all of us at TV 2/Fyn actually want this to happen: The board of directors. The management. The editorial managers. The editors. The journalists. The photographers. The graphic artists. The producers.

First of all, because we can. And then: Because we all want this to succeed. 

Perhaps this is why I actually believe that we will be Denmark's most constructive media house. 

But remember: Not until 2020. 

Esben Seerup

CEO and Editor-in-Chief

TV 2/Fyn

Wed 6 November 2019 15:09 

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Constructive Institute

C/O Aarhus University
Bartholins Allé 16
Bygning 1328, 1. sal
8000 Aarhus C

+45 601 38 600

Constructive Institute

C/O Aarhus University
Bartholins Allé 16
Bygning 1328, 1. sal
8000 Aarhus C

+45 601 38 600

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