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Happy Birthday Ovi!
by Edna Nelson
2008-12-20 09:54:28
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I discovered Ovi when some friends began circulating “Labour is Foreign” from Issue 10. The article mainly about high unemployment rates for immigrants in Finland moved fast amongst our group and certainly hit a nerve. Although it described the dismal realities of unemployment amongst immigrants in Finland, and Finnish xenophobia, we were happy to read it. The article didn’t present a nice picture, but an accurate one. It felt as if for once someone was writing about the situation we were living!

Of all of the English language publications in Finland (granted there are few) Ovi was and as far as I know IS the only one with the guts to tell the truth about the situation with immigrants here.  The others that I have seen seem to be filled with smiling faces, success stories, and fun things to do around town. It is isolating to have immigrant issues, and realities of xenophobia in Finland glazed over like they don’t exist. Articles that tell me how easy it is to learn Finnish if I would just practice more, or how nice my life really could be if I were just more patient are not only frustrating but offensive and misleading.

I was at first so excited about the “Labour is Foreign” article that when I clicked on the Ovi logo looking for more hard truths I was a bit disappointed to find a breath of fresh air and a supply of real news. In my most frustrated moments with English language media in Finland I tell myself that the fluff is published as a sort of antidepressant, a “You Can Do It” cheer for foreigners and more tolerant Finns, or a silent nod to the struggles of immigrants without the depressing details. But it doesn’t work for me, I much prefer Ovi’s balanced style of publishing critical writing alongside the light stuff and giving the readers space to decide what to take for themselves.

Later, while looking for a work practice position I began to ask my friends for recommendations and one suggested Ovi. I looked at the site again, and figured I might as well give it a shot. I picked up the phone and called Asa, whom I liked immediately. He was the type of person who I could stay on the phone with for a while and seemed receptive and honest. Although I wasn’t sure they would offer me a position, I felt good that there was at least someone nice out there. For the past weeks I had been nervously contacting Finnish and English language publications often times with no response. Now a cheery and interested voice responded across the line “Sure, send your CV and things, and we’ll see what we can do.” I guess that’s where my participation with Ovi really began.

Since that phone call I have met, spoke on the phone with and exchanged e-mails with Ovi’s Finnish residential co-editors Asa Butcher and Thanos Kalamidas. The first time I met Thanos he struck me as a warm and well read person, our conversation extended well beyond what I had expected and when we parted I knew more about Finland and felt more excited about writing than I had before we met. The second time we met it was with my teacher, Asa, and myself to sign my work contract. The message I got loud and clear was that I could write about whatever I want, in whatever language I want, and however often  I want, that I could submit my drawings and pretty much anything else I would like to share, and that for the most part I wouldn’t be censored. My teacher was impressed by their openness and felt instantly comfortable around them, I felt nervous at the start but when I could see that my teacher was satisfied with the situation I just wanted to walk along with Thanos and Asa just to hear them talk.

The most impressive thing about Ovi, and about its co-editors, is a sense of open-mindedness that is not present in much media in or outside of Finland these days. The way Ovi allows its contributors to write freely and merges the feel of a forum with the readability of a publication is very progressive. The slogan “We cover every issue every day” is a great way to sum up the attitude of the co-editors as people who are able to appreciate almost any point of view. Ovi is willing to put almost any idea or opinion on the table for discussion, making itself a great general resource and model for the type of interactive media that the internet makes possible.

In my first few weeks as a contributor to Ovi I have felt supported and encouraged to share my opinions rather than simply write news. The first writing advice I’ve received was “We want to see what you have to say, what you think, how you see things, anyone can write a report, what we want at Ovi is your opinion” and “Of course people have stolen from us, but it is not the text that is most important, it is the ideas and reactions that are behind the text. And that can never be stolen.”  This type of regard for personal expression in media makes for not only a more exciting product but is humanistic in and of itself. Happy Birthday Ovi! I only hope to see you grow stronger not only as an internet publication but as a model for how media can be made in the coming years.

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AP2008-12-20 18:18:06
Happy birthday Ovi.

Happy birthday Asa.

Marianne2009-01-03 13:49:28
Happy birthday Ovi and successful New Year!

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