Research interview with Mathias Lund Schjøtz

There is a lack of visionary leadership in the media and executives that can identify opportunities and merge insights from the commercial parts of the company with the editorial branch.

Mathias Lund SchjøtzMathias Lund Schjøtz worked as the editor of the youth media Brain Food, a part of his company Brain Gain Group (2012-2018). As you can tell from the quote, he has a critical view on Danish media in terms of innovation knowledge.

Despite his young age, Mathias Lund Schjøtz has already made several attempts to innovate media platforms together with large Danish news organisations and publishers.

He recently finished his master in Danish from the University of Copenhagen. He is a co-founder of EdTech Denmark. The company connects professionals and collaborates with technological education companies, start-ups, schools, instructors, and researchers.

I’ve met and talked to him a few times over the years to talk about the industry. On June 25, 2018, we had an informal skype talk on my project The Journalist’s Toolbox. We talked about the current challenges for Danish media and the journalists. The following are not ad verbatim quotes, but an extraction of our conversation. Mathias Lund Schjøtz has signed of on the use of the interview on this site.

The challenges today

“Journalists and the publishing industry as such are – in my opinion – not a very creative industry. Neither when it comes to thinking in terms business modeling, content creation, or formatting content in new ways.

There still exists a high degree of prestige in being a traditional journalist writing for print. I see three main problems in the Danish media regarding the near and long term future.

The lack of an innovation mindset

  1. There is a high degree of risk averseness and very little risk taking when it comes to investing in long-term development of new platforms or targeting potentially new readerships even though there are necessary means to do so.
  2. The knowledge of innovation processes in the Danish newsroom are limited, often they imagine themselves developing everything in house instead of looking for external partners to work with both in terms of collaboration and joint ventures.
  3. There is a lack of visionary leadership in the media and executives that can identify opportunities and merge insights from the commercial parts of the company with the editorial branch.

The educational role of the journalist

My take on the role of the future journalist is as a kind of knowledge-based entrepreneur. The knowledge-based entrepreneur  as a professional role model, is a person who sees him/herself as an agent of change and as a person who creates value for the reader.

I very much believe in the power of constructive journalism and journalists being solution oriented. I hope the media will learn to be more constructive and solution seeking and maybee in the future will view themselves as a kind of education institutes for the public.”

Are more Danish Journalists Going Freelance?

Members of Danish Journalist Union
The developement of members if the Danish Journalist Union from 1990 – 2018 (the numbers for 2018 are only for the 1st. quarter).

Are we getting fewer or more freelance journalists in Denmark?

That is a good questions when trying to analyse whether journalism as a profession is endangered or not. In the Scandinavian countries we have a high degree of union membership, and therefore I asked Dansk Journalistforbund – Medier og Kommunikation for help with membership data.

Steen Rønnengart provided the data above regarding the number of members of the two groups within the union; communicators and freelancers. We were both interested in analysing whether there are fewer working as paid journalists for traditional media during the past app. 30 years.

As the graph above shows there are many more members of the Danish Journalist Union. And the numbers of communicators and freelance journalists seem to be growing accordingly. However, when we do a percentage calculation, a different picture emerges:

Freelance journalists
The percentage of freelancers is suprisingly stabile, however the number of communicators have tripled in percentage points the last 28 years.

I had expected the percentage of freelancers to climb just as the percentage of communicators has. However, that is not the case. So maybe my initial theory of an increasing freelance market is wrong. Denmark and the Nordic countries could be different from the rest of Europe, since we have a strong tradition for both union membership and for being an employee.

Many benefits of the Danish welfare society such as paid sick leave and paid maternity leave have not been available to freelancers. Also, the Danish rules for VAT regarding journalism are complicated and until recently you can only get unemployment benefits if you work by an hourly rate and not if you have a company. These rules have been met with great critique because – as many argue – this dampens the willingness to work freelance.

Next week, I will analyse the differences further and use the data from the large editor survey from MyNewsDesk from 2016.



Reading list for the project The Journalist’s Toolbox

This reading list for the project The Journalist’s Toolbox is a work in progress. As in any other large thesis or ph.d., I am attempting to do a theoretical framework before I start with data gathering, subsequent analysis and qualitative interviews.

I have made this list to inspire others on what to read and also to be able to document my progress along the way. Please write me an e-mail if you have good ideas on what I should read when it comes to journalism education and future journalism competences.

Boczkowski, Pablo J. and Anderson, C. W. – editors (2017):  Remaking the News. Essays on the Future of Journalism Scholarship in the Digital Age. MIT Press.

Collignon, Pierre (2018): Tilbage til virkeligheden – Kampen mod fake news, løgne og manipulationer. Gyldendal, 1. E-book edition. Read here: Back to Reality.

Cokley, John (2015): Shopping News: Agenda Finding, What the Audience Does Before the News. Australian Scholarly Publishing.

Kammer, Aske (2018): Digital journalistik. Samfundslitteratur, 1. udgave E-bog.

Kleis Nielsen, Rasmus – editor (2015): Local Journalism: The Decline of Newspapers and the Rise of Digital Media. I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd.

Rosling, Hans, Rosling Rönnlund, Anna and Rosling, Ola (2018): Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. Sceptre. Read here: Factfulness.

Singer, Jane B. (2018) Reinventing Journalism as an Entrepreneurial Enterprise, Remaking the News, edited by Boczkowski, Pablo J and Anderson C.Q. Read here: Reinventing Journalism as an Entrepreneurial Enterprise.

Schultz-Jørgensen, Søren and Westergård, Per (2018): Den journalistiske forbindelse. Sådan genopfinder nyhedsmediet sin relation til borgerne – og sin relevans for demokratiet. Gyldendal Business, 1. E-book edition. Read here: The Journalistic Connection.