No one becomes sustainable by simply declaring that they are sustainable. Genuine sustainability in journalism is about actions – day-to-day effort to increase cohesion and understanding. According to Sanoma’s sustainability strategy, the purpose of magazine journalism is to “increase awareness, empathy and tolerance.”

Mari Markkanen, Managing Editor at Kodin Kuvalehti, tells us what sustainability means in editorial work.

In practice, this means thorough thinking. At Kodin Kuvalehti, we continuously consider which stories are important to tell. What is our view of humanity? How can we contribute to making the world at least a slightly better place? Answering these questions makes our work meaningful and justifies the existence of Kodin Kuvalehti. 

It is our duty to tell stories that matter. Meaningful stories are about the deepest needs of people and entice people to think about the things that are truly important in life. They bring people together and build a sustainable and tolerant view of humanity. If we succeed in this, something in the reader wakes up and their thinking or view of world becomes more open.

The core of Kodin Kuvalehti is crystallised in our slogan: Genuine moments. Genuineness is honesty. Sustainable magazine journalism is not about whitewashing or glossy image.  Kodin Kuvalehti does not preach or pose, but shows what it is like to be a human. The look is gentle but direct; we do not shun “sensitive issues” or “difficult questions”.

It is our task to see to diversity, such as people from different minorities being heard. We do not marvel at difference, but look for shared humanity.

A good example of this is our article “Kiitos tästä arjesta” (“Thank you for this day-to-day life”) on Ari and Tapani Kotisaari (KK16/2021). It is the story of a couple who have been together for 26 years and tells us about love, caring and standing by each other’s side in the joys and sorrows of life. This story by journalist Anna Pihlajaniemi resulted in an enormous amount of grateful feedback from readers, many of whom worded the values of Kodin Kuvalehti even more clearly than we have.

“The article on Ari and Tapani Kotisaari (KK 16/2021) was an eye-opening and warm piece on perseverance, caring for others and equal day-to-day life. Your magazine is doing a good job paving the way in removing prejudice by bringing up difference that is not actually difference after all.” – Marja-Leena

“The story on Ari and Tapani Kotisaari was written in a way that respects the interviewees. The writer has been able to get the interviewees to open up even about painful issues yet without making it social pornography. The partial life story of Ari and Tapani opened up my eyes, and Kodin Kuvalehti is to thank for it. The stories in the magazine increase equality and expand one’s view of life, and understanding different – or actually dissimilar – people increases by reading the stories. We are all similar human beings.” – Aino

The Kodin Kuvalehti article on Ari and Tapani Kotisaari (KK 16/2021) is available electronically in the paid service. Photos: Kodin Kuvalehti

Sustainability requires time and effort. Because we want to cover genuine and meaningful stories, we demand openness from both ourselves and the interviewees. We use a lot of time searching for the stories and justifying genuinely what kind of a story we want to write and why both to ourselves and the interviewees.

Why is this specific story important to tell? What is the more general meaning of the individual’s story? What valuable thing does it make visible? So why do we hope that the interviewee would agree to a story in which they have to give a lot of themselves?

The interviewee must be able to consider giving consent in peace; before the article is written, the journalist and interviewee can meet and get to know each other over a cup of coffee, if necessary. Sustainability is about building trust and intimacy.

We follow the Guidelines for Journalists which are binding on our profession. We closely co-operate with the interviewees but do not give surrender the power to make decisions to any party outside the editorial office. The story is created as the result of co-operation between the journalist, editor, photographer and graphic artist. Something would have gone astray if the interviewee did not recognise themselves in the finished article. We would need to find out the reason. In that case, the most sustainable course of action could be to not publish the article.

We are responsible towards our readers, and we are responsible towards our interviewees. They share a common interest. If we succeed in genuinely encountering an interviewee, we are also more certain to encounter the reader. Ultimately, the readers decide how well we succeed each time.

We continuously measure our success based on reader feedback. We receive hundreds of messages from our readers through our feedback channels after each issue of Kodin Kuvalehti. We also use a tool at the editorial office’s internal feedback meetings that indicates which stories in Kodin Kuvalehti’s digital version interested the readers the most and which articles were just browsed or skipped altogether.

In accordance with our sustainability strategy, we have succeeded in “increasing awareness, empathy and tolerance through our journalism” when we receive this kind of feedback from our readers:

“You work with a big heart, and you can see that when you’re reading the magazine. The texts are well-written and leave you in a good mood.” – Riitta

“I cried and laughed again, as I often do while reading Kodin Kuvalehti. The stories are about life lived in an honest and touching way. They give food for thought and stay in the mind for a long time. So many kinds of lives can be good lives. Big thanks to the entire editorial team for the valuable work.” – Sari

“Kodin Kuvalehti succeeds in surprising you with articles with no comparison in other magazines, time after time. It feels as if a good friend came to visit and we talked and made the world a slightly better place to live and be in once again.” – Merja

Author: Mari Markkanen, Managing Editor at Kodin Kuvalehti


This article is part of a series on sustainable media. In accordance with Sanoma’s sustainability strategy, Sanoma is committed to we provide trusted Finnish journalism and inspiring entertainment, now and in the future. 

Read all parts of the series:

Five examples of how the Guidelines for Journalists are visible in day-to-day work at Helsingin Sanomat

How does Kodin Kuvalehti increase awareness, empathy and tolerance in practical editorial work?

Sanoma is committed to complying with the age limit classification of TV programmes – protects children and young people from harmful content

Advertising material screening built by Sanoma strengthens sustainable marketing

Frequently Asked Questions on Sustainable Media