Correspondent on the Campus: More In-Depth Journalism on Science?

A Finnish newspaper placed a news correspondent on campus. Does this imply quality science journalism and more in-depth coverage on research, or more promotion for the university? Is this a new innovation that more newspapers should follow?

Aamulehti – published in Tampere and with Finland’s second-largest circulation – begins to follow and report regularly on university phenomena: research work, education and community news. Journalist Markus Määttänen starts as the first university correspondent in May 2021.

Editor-in-chief Jussi Tuulensuu states the main goal is to understand the work the university does and adduce it’s relationship with society more versatilely than before. The designated correspondent also helps to find the best professionals to comment on actual phenomena.

Correspondent Markus Määttänen says it is important to communicate about university life, since research-based knowledge and innovations often originate in universities.

– As the university continuously develops, there will always be something new to report on.

Määttänen states the university community has been a significant resource in the progress and growth of the Pirkanmaa region, where Tampere is the largest city. It has a developing corporate life, and the city of Tampere cooperates with universities.

– I believe the universities are physically so close that the newspapers haven’t seen university communities’ power and attraction.

President of Tampere University Mari Walls sees the correspondentship as a great opportunity for the university to represent its research and education and interact societally.

– Correspondentship corroborates the effectiveness of the work the university performs. It is necessary that policy-making in its different levels is based on investigated knowledge.

Traditional coverage, new position

The concept of a university correspondent was established already in December 2020 when Määttänen started to produce the podcast series Tieteentekijät [The Science-makers] for Aamulehti, but the correspondent position was not launched until this spring. If the Covid-19 situation allows, Määttänen will later work at several different campuses.

Correspondentship in general is not a new invention. Actually, it’s one of the most traditional positions in journalism, considering the newspapers have had correspondents abroad for ages. Aamulehti has correspondents in different regions in Finland and neighboring municipalities.

– This is the first non-regional correspondentship for Aamulehti, Jussi Tuulensuu says.

Internationally, there have been plenty of abstract correspondentships, for example social media and specific theme correspondents. To mention one, Financial Times has an environment and clean energy correspondent.

The idea of university correspondentship arose in the Aamulehti editing office. The aim was to appoint a university- and science-dedicated journalist.

– As far as I know, this is the first university correspondent position in Finland, Markus Määttänen says.

Critical but inspiring

How can a university correspondent be critical towards the institution and research as one also promotes university work? Määttänen underlines that a journalist must follow an ethical and moral code.

– Critisism is built into journalism – it’s a primal requirement. This does not differ from any other type of journalism.

However, Määttänen hopes his passion for new research, science and technics will be shown in the articles, as the researchers are also passionate for their work.

– I am aiming to write positive and inspiring articles about the university community, people and research projects. If it seems inspiring, it must be. I don’t consider it as a negative aspect, Määttänen says.

As the correspondent works indenpendently and follows the rules of journalism, President of Tampere University Mari Walls is looking forward to seeing what kind of articles Aamulehti will publish.

– Our research area is very wide. We have hundreds of research groups in the field of technics, health and society. Also, student life in Tampere is considered very intriguing.

But what can university reportages offer to readers outside the university community and research?

– The most important mission of journalism is to spread new information and create new points of view. Articles about the university also represent what is going on in Pirkanmaa overall and how the region is developing. It affects everyone’s day-to-day life, Markus Määttänen says.

University Correspondent

  • The Finnish daily Aamulehti established correspondentship in December 2020 and launched it in May 2021.
  • First correspondent is the journalist Markus Määttänen.
  • Weekly podcast series Tieteentekijät (The Sciencemakers) as the first project of the correspondentship: the 15th episode aired in May.
  • Articles published on a weekly basis.
  • If the Covid-19 situation allows, the correspondent will be working at university campuses.
  • According to current information the correspodentship will last at least a year.
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    Photo: Markus Määttänen