Immigrant journalist training programme confronts its critics

Twenty new students - with previous experience - will start a re-training programme designed to teach immigrants how to be journalists in Finland.

File picture showing exterior of Haaga-Helia University of Applied Science in Helsinki / Credit: News Now Finland

A Finnish university’s plans to re-train immigrant journalists has attracted dozens of applicants for the spring course, and some critics as well.

Last summer, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki received a government grant of more than €86,000 to run the training, which will take immigrants with some previous journalism experience and teach them about how to work in that same profession in their new home.

It’s thought to be the first course of its kind in Finland.

“There are immigrants in Finland who have used to work as a journalists in their own country, but they have not successfully managed, for one reason or another, to get work here. It is assumed that we can improve the situation with this training” says degree programme director Anne Leppäjärvi.

One outcome would be to have more diverse representation in Finnish newsrooms.

“We wanted to improve the [different voices] in Finnish journalism. We hope that there will be immigrants working in media scene too, which is not quite happening now. That’s the reason we wanted to develop this programme” says Leppäjärvi.

“The idea is that citizens would be able to see things from different perspectives. If we had only [one type of voice] in media, then journalism would only support the actions of few people” she tells News Now Finland.

File photo of tables & chairs in a classroom / Credit: iStock

Dozens of applicants 

When the application process closed earlier this week, 34 people had applied for the course, from 16 different countries including Brazil, Ethiopia, Greece, Russia and China. Every continent except Australia was represented.

Twenty of those candidates will be chosen, and start their one year re-training programme to update the skills to meet Finnish media industry requirements.

Apart from prior training or work experience in journalism, successful applicants also need to speak and write Finnish at lower intermediate level.

Over the next 12 months they’ll learn about Finnish journalism professional ethics, legislation, working methods and get a better understanding of the media landscape in Finland – especially when it comes to being self-employed.

“The gender distribution was also very equal, which is also important point because when it comes to [diversity of voices] it is not only about citizenship diversity but the other factors too” explains Anne Leppäjärvi.

Online criticism of the course

Announcement of the program has gathered some negative comments on social media during the application period.

“I don’t understand why there should be some immigrant journalists, but not mere journalists” wrote one person.

“Why do we need foreign journalists in the world, when Finns understand English?” said one Twitter user, who describes themselves as “critical of immigration”.

Anne Leppäjärvi had been prepared for this sort of response.

“One argument against the program has been that it would be discriminatory against non-immigrants, but it is easy to see evidence that Finnish-speaking people have numerous  journalist programs and various kinds of in-service training as well” she says.

“There are different training courses in our country for different targets and this is one of them”.