Although I’m a freelance journalist, sometimes I get very angry with the press. One angle of this revolves around reading a report of an action I’ve been on or something else that I know a lot about, and seeing how it is misrepresented and inaccurate. I then think, “The media can’t be trusted if they get simple facts wrong.” But after a while I forget, life goes on as usual and I start believing the media again.
I wonder in particular about the accuracy of foreign news, i.e. news that is reported in Iceland about something happening elsewhere. This is partly because foreign journalists come to Iceland to report on something in particular, for instance the Icelandic elections, but are only here for a short period of time and usually do not get the full picture of the situation. If this happens in Iceland, it undoubtedly happens elsewhere too, especially in cases where there is no foreign correspondent living in the country in question.
My current grumble centres on how the recent Icelandic election was/is reported. The only thing that 95% of foreign press outlets want to cover seems to be the Pirates. Thus the leader of the Pirates, Birgitta Jonsdottir, had 30 foreign journalists following her when she went to vote, whereas none of the other party leaders were followed. And coverage was centred on how well – or not well – the Pirates did (they came third in terms of percentage votes). There were many other interesting points about the election, and still are, but coverage by foreign journalists has been virtually zilch since the day after the election, although now coverage has picked up again as Birgitta Jonsdottir currently has the mandate for forming a government. It’s no big deal in Iceland – she’s the third person to get the mandate – but obviously it is to foreign media.
I have tried to get various foreign press outlets interested in covering the elections from a wider angle, from someone living in Iceland (me), but they aren’t interested.
A similar situation occurred when Iceland was applying to join the EU. One of the outlets I work for got someone in their office to write something on the subject, based on talks with someone in Brussels, which indicated that Iceland was about to join. I was livid. Anyone living in Iceland would have known that the subject was very touchy, which was proved when the accession process was halted after the change of government in 2013.
I also gather that the bank crash in October 2008, along with its repercussions, was reported with lots of mistakes. Although I usually suggest pitches, occasionally I get asked to write something in particular. This happened after the crash, when I was asked to write a story about women being appointed to key positions because they handle finances differently. But the request had come from someone who had obviously read inaccurate reports about Iceland, and her premise wasn’t correct. Which led to a difficult article to write.
Motto to foreign news agencies: Use foreign correspondents.