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.”

Factfulness – Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World

Factfulness_rulesRosling, Hans; Rosling, Ola and Rosling Rönnlund, Anna (2018): Factfulness. Ten reasons we’re wrong about the World – and why things are better than you think. Sceptre.

The late Swedish doctor and professor in public health, Hans Rosling, has been a long time TED favourite around the globe and among reporter with his statistic talk on how chimpanzees are more correct when it comes to considering facts than humans are.

He is provocative and highly critical of journalists’ factfulness and expands his views in his last book Factfulness. Ten reasons we’re wrong about the World – and why things are better than you think.

Rosling has – together with his son and daughter-in-law – written a book filled with anecdotes, humour and statistics. He does so in order to analyse and comment on the many human instincts, such as our instinct to be fearful, negative, generalize, blame and to see facts from just one perspective.

“Fear that once helped keep our ancestors alive, today help keep journalists employed. It isn’t the journalists’ fault and we shouldn’t expect them to change. It isn’t driven by “media logic” among the producers as much as by “attention logic” in the heads of the consumers.” (Page 107)

In 2015, he had this much shared in fight with Danish reporter Adam Holm in 2015, where he famously announces that “you cannot use the media in order to understand the world.” Watch the news clip here in Danish/Swedish.

In order to combat the massive ignorance on the World’s progress from poverty to health care, he suggests educating the world rather than the journalists. By applying these ten Factfulness rules of thumb when listening to news or information, we are all able to be fight ignorance and identify the global problems we should be solving such as climate change and disease control. We, the people, not the media are responsible for consuming the news more factfully.

The ten rules include knowledge of statistic, being able to see problems proportionally, stop the blame and expect bad news without going into fear or generalizations. With these rules not much reporting would be done, argues Rosling.

However critical Hans Rosling is towards journalists, he does advocate for using several tools in the journalist’s toolbox; for instance being critical towards sources, to have an insight into statistic methodology in order to avoid faults such as thinking in exponential or straight lines and to question generalizations.

Most of all, he encourages us all to be curios and open-minded when learning about the world.

In the final chapter, he mentions constructive journalism in passing, without putting up high hopes on its impact long term. However, he does not hold great expectations for journalists being more knowledgable than other professions including his own.