Category
Radio

Pillar
Pillar 3: Conversation

Country
Sweden

Radio Kalmar

Louise Haag – Head of News
Radio Kalmar, Sveriges Radio, Sweden

“Constructive journalism is a completely natural and integral part of the journalism that is done at SR Kalmar. It is used both in straight news reports as well as longer feature stories.”

Louise Haag – Head of News, Radio Kalmar 

Summary

At Radio Kalmar constructive journalism is a part of the everyday workflow and reporters use a constructive lens to examine each step of the journalism process. This ethos is driven to a large extent by Louise Haage, Radio Kalmar’s Head of News. Louise believes that Constructive Journalism “is not a method, it’s a mindset”.

 

How They Did It

 

There have been constructive journalism workshops for most journalism teams at Sveriges Radio (Swedish Radio) but it is at the regional station Radio Kalmar that constructive approaches are really thriving. The engine behind enthusiasm and innovation with local news is Louise Haag, Head of news and veteran of over 25 years at the station. Louise felt coverage had to change at the station because listeners numbers were falling and she says “I was becoming bored of the news, it was abuse and blood and dark things.”

Radio Kalmar serves Sweden’s South-Eastern Kalmar county which lies along the Baltic sea. It’s the regional offering for the public service radio broadcaster Sveriges Radio (Swedish Radio). Sveriges Radio prides itself on having the largest local coverage in Sweden and in a national 30 minute news bulletin Radio Kalmar will have around 3 minutes to summarise its local news to its residents and to the rest of the country. The news team could easily fill their segment with crime stories from the local police reports but instead they strive to portray a balanced view of Kalmar county. Louise avoids what she calls “careless and indifferent” stories and aims “show the society as it is, not just what we choose in order to be dramatic”.

“I was becoming bored of the news, it was abuse and blood and dark things.”

Louise Haag – Head of News, Radio Kalmar 


Radio Kalmar covers corona with solution focus

Picture: Radio Kalmar. During Corona the radio station has been offering nuanced coverage of how to deal with everyday life.

Solutions Focus

When covering local challenges Louise and her team look elsewhere for others who have solved similar problems or situations in different cities and country settings. Throughout the corona epidemic they have covered solutions through their “KlaraCorona (coping with Corona) series. Journaliasts have reported on everything from exercising away from the gym to top tips for conference calls.

 


 

A Nuanced coverage

Showing all angles of a story and a nuanced perspective are important for Louise and her team. Whilst covering corona in the region there have not been significantly high numbers of cases; people are dispersed geographically and there is not a high level of international travel to the area.  Though their reporters interviewed the director of hospital in Kalmar to discuss his patients they didn’t just address infection rates and fatalities. Louise’s journalists made an effort to also talk survivors such as 87 year old Hans who is now in good health.

Showing all angles of a story and a nuanced perspective are important for Louise and her team.

 

Holding truth to power continue to play a central role for journalists at Radio Kalmar and the news team has not hesitated to uncover corruption within the local administration. Louise believes that in in cases of investigative journalism nuance is particularly important.  A government official for example was using funds allocated for palliative care research in order to buy sound synthesisers for his home. The Radio Kalmar story was widely lauded and the official lost their job as a consequence. The news team were keen to put the case into context clarifiying that it was the actions of one individual and covering the efforts of the department rectify the situation. The reporter who drove the stories came into the studio to do “sit ins” with the presenters and offer a serious rather sensationalist analysis of the latest developments on the case. By offering a more complex and nuanced analysis of the story Radio Kalmar won trust with their audiences.

 

Democratic Conversation

Connecting their audiences with those in power and having civil and curious conversations about democracy is a key focus for Radio Kalmar, in fact part of Sveriges Radio’s mandate is to “safeguard the basic principles of democratic society”. In editorial meetings time is spent trying to expand the circle of contributors so that new and unknown voices can offer their insights. The news team liaises closely with their listeners throughout the reporting cycle and has a network of users that help them with their stories. The journalists stress that it’s important to have dialogue back and forth with their audience; many story leads and interviews are driven by listeners with a deep local knowledge and niche expertise.  Lousie believes that “constructive journalism works by giving us more responses and more answers. We get more engagement from the listeners.”

“Constructive journalism works by giving us more responses and more answers. We get more engagement from the listeners.”

Louise Haag – Head of News, Radio Kalmar 

Ensuring debates and discussions between politicians don’t turn into quarrels is one of the biggest hurdles to a constructive coverage at the station. Last election saw aggressive dialogue on social media, the tone was alarming and the news team took their concerns to the regional politicians. Audiences were not interested in shouting or assigning blame; listeners were asking for visions of the future and answers to the challenges across Kalmar. Now before shows with government officials participants are briefed about a different kind of approach that is required. Louise believes there is room for improvement saying “The panelists did a little better but it’s in their backbone to talk badly about their opponents.” Louise’s team will continue to address this as it’s what their listeners are asking for.


The radio also produces longer feature stories that dives into solutions to problems

Picture: Radio Kalmar. Feature story showing the impact music has on people with dementia.