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Big News: Sale at Bónus-- the Death of Icelandic Journalism

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I had come to enjoy my free daily paper, delivered to my doorstep without me ever having requested it. Fréttabladid, which has become the most widely read Icelandic paper, became so for a few reasons: 1) it’s free and comes to your door even if you don’t ask for it, 2) it has given the impression that it was liberal because it criticized Davíd Oddsson. Many people grabbed the rag because they wanted to hear the other side, as Morgunbladid, the oldest newspaper in the country, often seems to be an Oddsson soapbox.

Well we were all DUPED. Be warned readers from around the globe who like free stuff, this could happen to you. We have put our trust and money, not real money, we’re far far too cheap, but our readership has brought money because now advertisers are jumping on to the Fréttabladid train. And suddenly we have a paper that doesn’t even pretend to show two sides of newstories, when it reports the news, and we have put the only real paper in the country in jeopardy.

I was bummed when Fréttabladid reported on a teacher’s strike by doing a survey with questions something like “How many years in hell with the teachers burn for disappointing our nation’s children.” That’s satire. Sorry. The truth is worse. Fréttabladid covered the teacher’s strike by repeatedly showing pictures of handicapped children and pointing out the difficulties brought to their parents when the strike hit.

One article from the strike showed two struggling parents who were in the process of getting their teaching certificate but who couldn’t do so because their special needs child wasn’t being cared for as the teachers themselves fought to get the wages a teenager could make at a fast food restaurant. The parents were the ultimate victims of a strike, the paper suggested. (Next year, when they finish school and become extremely poor public servants, they’ll be victims of bad media coverage, but that won’t be front page news.)

And what is front page news in a country where the largest newspaper is owned by the largest grocery store? Today, the main headline is that Krónan grocery has started a price war with Bónus, the grocery store owned by Fréttabladid. (Funny, this story didn’t even make Morgunbladid*—that silly paper just covered the Earth-shattering news from Lebanon.)

So the paper put out by the grocery store tells us that someone is waging a price war, but it goes on to say that Bónus really is cheaper. (If we have any doubt, we can just look at the chart that was provided yesterday, listing eight products and showing us that yes, Bónus is cheaper.)

That’s the state of journalism in Iceland today. Given the immense success of Baugur, the company that owns Fréttabladid and has become the largest private employer in England, I’m guessing that will be the state of journalism in England tomorrow.

* CORRECTION: Morgunbladid has also covered the Kronan Bónus price war. Also with a chart. They did NOT, however, deem it front page news.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.