Journalists at Estonia’s largest daily, Postimees, sent a letter to their management in March in which they complained that too much of the paper's content and tone was being dictated by corporate officers, and that the marketing and advertising departments interfered with their work.
The letter complained that both the management of Postimees as well as the group’s marketing and advertising departments interfered with the work of the editors. Signed by representatives of the paper’s different teams, the letter’s eventual version was printed off and handed over, but a draft was made available to ERR’s online news on Tuesday.
Management dictates topics, tone, headlines
The management dictated who the editors should be critical of, including not only the direction, but also the tone and headline of articles, the letter specified. The main complaint is the role of marketing and advertising: journalists were expected to write favorably about companies belonging to Eesti Meedia, the paper’s parent company. One of the letter’s examples was sales director Rivo Põldoja’s intervention to make Postimees promote an entertainment program on Kanal 2, a TV channel owned by the group.
"As far as we know, for the first time in the history of Postimees, we are told what to write about and how. We are dictated who to pick to pieces, so to speak, and how critical the article needs to be," the letter stated.
The representatives of the editors pointed to Sven Nuutmann, CEO of Eesti Meedia. Journalists at Postimees that ERR was able to talk to confirmed that this is the first time that the corporate level is this aggressively interfering with the paper’s editorial work.
Journalists not allowed to write about Eesti Meedia’s competitors neutrally
One of the examples of management interference that got Postimees’ editors to act was Nuutmann’s order not to report anything about the Kuldmuna (“Golden Egg”) awards, the annual awards event of Estonia’s union of marketing and communications agencies.
Roughly half a year before the awards, Bestmarketing.ee, an industry portal, had run an article critical of Postimees. Their involvement in arranging the Kuldmuna awards along with the Password conference last month was enough for Nuutmann to cancel 15 conference passes intended for Postimees journalists, demand the money back, and ban the paper from writing about the events.
“We are not allowed to write about competitors or persons connected to them neutrally; we are pressured into writing promotional articles about companies connected with [Eesti Meedia], even though in reality there is no news, and no point. We have to endure certain people’s fits of rage and being called on the carpet if orders are not met, or not met diligently enough,” the draft of the editors’ letter stated.
Tomberg: "No conflict at all"
According to sources known to ERR, the final version of the letter was less emotional, and contained more specific criticism. Journalists were bothered the most by the corporate demand to do content marketing for Kanal 2 and run these articles prominently on Postimees’ website.
The letter was handed over on March 27, and at that point had been signed by the chiefs of all of Postimees' desks, representing the paper’s editors on the whole. A meeting with Nuutmann followed on the same day, in which the CEO justified his actions rather than seeing a problem in them. Apparently editor-in-chief Lauri Hussar as well as Eesti Meedia’s content and programs director, former Enterprise Estonia CEO Hanno Tomberg, are trying to act as mediators in the currently very difficult climate.
Tomberg only commented that there was "no conflict at all," as it has already been resolved. Hussar told ERR’s online news on Wednesday that in organizations where different media and companies came together, tensions were inevitable, and needed to be addressed.
"That the editors love to write letters is customary at Postimees. That we are one group [of businesses] and that this is Eesti Meedia means that we have to bring our activities together. As we have unique TV programs, we have to make better use of this," Hussar said, commenting on editors’ complaints about the interference of Kanal 2’s programming.
Eesti Meedia's CEO, Sven Nuutmann, declined to comment.
Editor: Dario Cavegn