Yesterday, Mark and I had a fascinating morning tour of Sveriges Radio and learned about the media outlet from its dynamic CEO, Cilla Benko, and several top foreign correspondents covering areas from the Middle East to the global economic crisis.
I have walked by Sveriges Radio’s massive, cubic building many times and enjoyed watching the throngs of sharp-eyed journalists— Sveriges Radio employs over 1,600 employees— hopping on their bikes at the end of the workday. As someone deeply interested in journalism, my curiosity was piqued by the vast machinations within its walls and how the company maintained its journalistic integrity to the level of being not only the most trusted news outlet in Sweden, but the most trusted Swedish brand at a rating of 78 percent. Sveriges Radio has approximately 4 million daily listeners and creates 199,000 hours of radio per year.
Over coffee and kanelbullar (cinnamon buns), Ms. Benko described Sveriges Radio’s three priorities of remaining “independent, trustworthy and up-to-date.” These concepts are interwoven into an overarching strategy of reaching out, interacting and involving the audience to start a conversation and learn what is important or newsworthy to them, not vice-versa. Ms. Benko described this strategy through a prism of what seemed to me as a more moderated form of citizen journalism: the people speak and the journalists interpret and implement. This is accomplished by underscoring local news and engaging those in a given community to give tips and participate in the formation of a story.
What was most impressive to me was how Sveriges Radio was aiming to reach out to non-conventional audiences and broaden the dialogue through inclusivity. Daily broadcasts are communicated in a variety of languages, including Arabic and Somali, and journalists are trained in language and cultural diversity. There is also a reporter entirely devoted to youth matters, such as education, youth unemployment and even sex, with a binary focus on communicating issues in the most relevant and easily digested way for a young audience. Perhaps this is why Sveriges Radio is one of the few traditional media outlets that is increasing its audience amongst the 9-19 age group, especially impressive for one that does not include any televised broadcasts.
A final element of the company’s strategy further emphasized something I find to be prevalent in Sweden and among Swedes in general: a strong global perspective and focus on understanding and relating to the outside world. The one area where Ms. Benko and her senior team refuse to make cuts is in its foreign correspondents, which number 17 around the world, the most within Scandinavia. We had the pleasure of meeting with one of Sverige Radio’s most senior foreign affairs correspondents, Agneta Ramberg, who delineated how the media world is changing and how Sveriges Radio is creating a context for a more in-depth analysis of news to remain ahead of the curve.
The entire morning was a fascinating look where the news industry is heading and we deeply appreciated being given an inside perspective. Thank you Sveriges Radio!