On 16 November, Finland's leading daily, Helsingin Sanomat celebrated its 120th anniversary by transforming itself. The new Helsingin Sanomat will focus on content: What to tell the readers and how?
The main objective of transforming Helsingin Sanomat is to emphasise the perspective of the reader. Below, some editors of the newspaper's sections describe how the change in approach has affected their work, how the reader perspective is being taken into account, and what high-quality journalism, done the Helsingin Sanomat way, is like.
"Helsingin Sanomat has to be accessible and attractive," says Reetta Meriläinen, editor-in-chief. "It has to contain articles that you understand and that you will take the time to read. We have to bring order to chaos, as well as deliver insight into what is topical, important and relevant right now."
Making a general-interest newspaper has its own difficulties, because of the great range of interests among the readers. During the transformation process, Helsingin Sanomat arranged reader panels in which participants analysed dummy papers.
"The reader panels gave us invaluable information," Meriläinen says. "It has been great to see how attached people are to Helsingin Sanomat and how well they know it."
Along with the overall transformation of the newspaper's approach, there have been many changes in the editorial work processes. A new central table has brought the various editorial sections to the same table. The main product of the multichannel media is the news, relayed to the readers in a continuous stream via print, online, radio and mobile in the ways that are best suited to each channel.
The transformation of turning news into a continuous, multichannel flow takes careful planning. Multichannel media is part of the everyday routine for an increasing number of editors, as all news editors participate in online rotation.
According to the supervisor of the news editors, Riikka Venäläinen, working in the online service opens your eyes to what multichannel media is all about. She sees it not as a necessary evil, but as an essential part of the product and brand.
"The editor's work has become more complicated since the times of President Kekkonen," Meriläinen explains. Now you have to be proactive. "You have to decide which angle will work best on the web, which in tomorrow's paper, and how the online news will be updated during the day.
How the items are presented will also be more carefully planned. For example, the graphics and picture editors will be included in the illustration layout from the start.
"You have to present the news item in an interesting way, even though the topic may seem dull, Meriläinen explains. "Why should I be interested in, say, the reform of the municipal service structure? It's not the kind of news that people just can't wait to read. You have to find a concrete point that speaks to people."
Helsingin Sanomat quality means reliability and faultlessness – but is there anything more?
"We try to draw as comprehensive a picture of the world as possible," Venäläinen says, "a picture that will surprise the readers, time and again. We are the first ones to discuss issues and phenomena that are just appearing. Our quality is also based on well-written articles. In the future, we need to focus on including a narrative aspect in the news."