A few months after arriving in Finland, we received a coupon from Helsingin Sanomat offering a free trial of their newspaper for two weeks. Free! Where do I sign? For a fortnight, we were suddenly awoken at 4am by a CRASH! KLATTER! KABOOM! as the latest edition hit our doormat and exploded into a hundred sections.
The coupon had not mentioned sleep depravation and it had not forewarned of persistent phone calls from the sales department who would insist on mispronouncing my name and offering a further subscription. This was finally ended when I explained that we don’t need to subscribe, we can just find the old issues from our recycling bins and I don’t speak Finnish. They didn’t bother us again.
What did bother me was the lack of rivals to Hesari. Where are the other capital-based newspapers that cover domestic and international issues? I don’t mean tabloids, such as Iltalehti and Ilta-Sanomat that keep us updated on the latest Nykänen scandal, but another heavyweight broadsheet newspaper that would counter Hesari’s opinion.
The UK has a huge selection of daily broadsheet newspapers that approach subjects and issues from all political angles. From the world-renowned London Times to the liberal Guardian, from the Conservative Daily Telegraph to the left wing Independent, while the tabloid selection is even more varied; and none of them have a full-page advertisement on the front page.
Perhaps one reason that Finland has very few national newspapers is because 207-newspaper titles are printed for a meagre population of 5.2 million every week. Regional and local papers seem to be a very popular method for reading the latest news but the problem lies in the potential bias of who owns them.
Sanoma-WSOY is responsible for Helsingin Sanomat and Ilta-Sanomat, while Almamedia prints Aamulehti and Iltalehti, along with 30 other national and local newspapers. These two media companies do not run all 170 Finnish local newspapers, it is common to find larger city papers running the smaller titles situated within their area.
This is where Kangasalan Sanomat is special and has even been described as a ‘historical phenomenon’. The paper is among just ten others who have refrained from joining forces with either their rivals or a conglomerate; your paper is owned by shareholders from the Kangasala community and there are safeguards in place to ensure that continues for another 80 years.
Through this style of ownership, the paper helps to build a positive reputation for the paper with its readers and it is far more trustworthy than a newspaper owned by a faceless businessman from Helsinki. Could you imagine Hesari enjoying the same reputation among the residents of Helsinki?
It is relaxing to browse through the pages of this paper and take a break from the scandals, wars, sleaze, accusations and general unrest in the world. It is nice to read a normal-sized paper that doesn’t cover my table like a tramp’s tablecloth and maybe one day I will be able to understand the text and not just look at the photographs.
Written in November, 2004