Sweden

Helena Bengtsson: Bringing People Back to Facts, Our Biggest Challenge

Interview with Helena Bengtsson of the Guardian in Britain, previously the database editor at Sveriges Television, Sweden’s national television broadcaster.
 
Helena Bengtsson is the editor of data projects at the Guardian newspaper in London, United Kingdom. She previously worked as the database editor at Sveriges Television, Sweden’s national television broadcaster. In 2006 and 2007, she was the database editor at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C. She has been awarded the Stora Journalistpriset (Great Journalism Award) in Sweden twice, in 2010 for Valpejl.se and in 2016 for Innovator of the Year.
 

Is Donor Funding Bad for Journalism?

Funding from donors in the media has grown significantly during the past decade or so. Journalists welcome the charity. But when these awards come with editorial “advice”, we have a problem.
 
Thisisafrica.me is an online media outlet that brands itself as a “leading forum for African opinion, arts and music.” They cover a jumble of topics ranging from politics to corruption to sex and reproductive policies. The site publishes op-eds, interviews and investigations. Its journalism has been widely praised across the continent.
 
But in spite of its apparent popularity, Thisisafrica.me is in business mainly thanks to donor funding: cash doled out by foundations and deep-pocketed philanthropists. Without cash from donors, Thisisafrica.me wouldn’t exist. That is hardly surprising, especially on a continent ravaged by poverty where markets can rarely support high-quality journalism.
 
But over the past decade or so, as the internet and dwindling economies have clobbered mainstream media companies, funding independent journalism has become a major problem everywhere. Ad spend is down or spread to many more outlets than before. Newspaper circulations have dived. Journalists and media companies take funding from almost all kinds of givers, donors included. Even established media are increasingly resorting to private donors.