An interview with Renny Jokelin


Interview with: Renny Jokelin, Journalist at YLE Finnish National Broadcast Company, producer on the investigative journalism television programme MOT. Visiting professor in the School of Communication, Media and Theatre, University of Tampere, academic year 2014-2015

Interviewd by: Auli Harju, Researcher at UTA, Finland

Date: 5 November 2014


1. Role of practice in journalism education

  • In journalism education, the connection to the continuously changing journalistic work is easily lost; there is a need to get input from the field to journalism education (for instance, in the form of visiting lecturers and teachers).

2. Importance of the Internet as a working environment for journalists

  • The former way of teaching journalism was medium-specific. We still need to teach basic skills for each medium (print, radio, television) but the Internet is the connecting, collecting environment; journalists working for different media will work for the Internet environment too. Whether you write a story for print, for radio or for television, you have to produce something for the Internet as well.
  • For instance, data journalism is a basic tool for investigative journalism, but the Internet gives the power to data journalism; the stories will live and evolve further in the Net.
  • However, usually, both journalism teachers and students lack technical skills when it comes to publishing in the Internet environment.
  • Future journalists should have multiple skills, to manage different media as platforms for their stories and to use different tools.
  • At the same time, they should still know the basics: what journalism is, how to write a good story, how to ask the right questions, how to be a good journalist. These days, many media houses are provided with a so-called data desk with professional coders, graphic designers etc., but the journalist is the one who still has to deliver the story, the idea and the viewpoint.

3. On his own teaching as a visiting professor

  • Teaching is workshop-based. There are open lectures, and the actual workshop is limited to 18 students.
  • First, there is the investigative workshop, where we learn the basic things: how to do investigative journalism, how to use the tools, Excel, what are the important open data sources etc. Several experts, journalists, data journalists and so forth, will be invited to teach a lesson.
  • Then in the spring semester, there will be another workshop, where students will collect and analyse data and make stories that will come out in YLE (Finnish National Broadcasting Company) as real, published stories.

4. Interacting with the audience in social media

  • A journalist will always be a journalist and be bound by professional and ethical codes of conduct. For instance, journalists should not get involved with the power holders of the society in social media. Journalists should be careful in social media and not say anything that they could not say as journalists. Social media is a good tool for crowdsourcing and promoting stories to the audience. Otherwise, it is too easy to blur the line between objectivity and one’s own opinions.

5. Suggestions for journalism education:

  • In journalism education, there should be a news desk that works like a real news desk. The stories students write should be taken in and published in different university media and always on the Internet. The desk could work perhaps an hour or two a day; it could be run by older students and coordinated by a teacher in collaboration with the teachers responsible for each medium.
  • Even though people now stress the mobile as the first idea, in journalism, we cannot go only mobile first; otherwise, we lose the quality journalism and end up producing fast-food journalism only. Even though people use mobile devices to read news and other content, they also want and use content with other media, and they still want to consume quality journalism.
  • An institution that provides journalistic education should have good connections to media houses and professional journalists. The students will benefit from this; they will get their stories sold, they will have the opportunity to learn from professional journalists and they will have the possibility of working in media as trainees and during their studies.
  • Journalism education should be aware of the future work environment for the future journalists they are training. Will there be newspapers that will hire, ten years from now? Journalism students must also learn how to work as freelancers, how to sell their stories, how to build up and work in a collective. They need to know about being entrepreneurs, how to make their living, pay their taxes etc.