TV4 buys political blog

Swedish TV4 recruits the former Expressen journalist Niklas Svensson and buys his new political blog Politikerbloggen for an estimated 1 million kronor (about 108,000 euro).

The site has 20,000 visitors per week, according to Svensson and has sold advertising space since May for 450,000 kronor. The blog has quickly established itself as a political force to be reckoned with and it is currently the fifth most linked to Swedish blog according to

Politikerbloggen has been quoted with several scoops in traditional media, but not very often by TV4 – only once (online that is). Dagens Media (29), Expressen (23), Resumé (21), Aftonbladet (15) and Metro (15) are the media that most frequently mention Politikerbloggen.

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Sweden’s Foreign Minister in legal trouble for blog comments

[Republished post, the original must have been accidentally deleted. Sorry for the inconvenience]

The blog of Sweden’s Foreign Minster Carl Bildt has become a question for Konstitutionsutskottet (KU), the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution, writes Riksdag & Departement. Bildt’s blog is subject to an investigation by the prosecutor because Bildt did not remove hateful comments to some of his blog posts earlier this year. And before the prosecutor continues with the preliminary investigation, he wants KU to determine whether Bildt is blogging as a minister or as a private individual. If he is blogging as a minister, then KU will determine if he is to be prosecuted or not.

According to Swedish law it is the responsibility of the site owner to remove hateful comments “within reasonable time”. Bildt has declared that he knew about the comments and that he found them “very inappropriate”. But he did not remove them with the explanation that they were archived anyway. The comments were finally removed later in the spring.

Initially the blog was launched as a private blog, but when Bildt became a minister in the new right wing goverment he added a link to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ website which also registers all the posts on the blog as public documents.

During the 200 years that KU has existed it has only decided to prosecute a minister once, and that was in the 1850’s.

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A blogger code of ethics won’t save us from lies

bloggar danielsson

While I was away taking care of more import matters, an incident categorized as the Swedish equivalent of the Trent Lott affair has erupted. The background is this. The Swedish government was heavily critized for how it handled the tsunami disaster in Asia in December 2004 when more than 500 Swedes were killed. The main problem in handling the crisis on Dec 26, 2004 was the lack of a working crisis management in the Goverment Offices, according to the Catastrophy Commission. It was therefor Prime Minister Göran Persson who had the overall responsibility for the flaws.

Lars Danielsson is the State Secretary and often labelled “Göran Persson’s right hand”. In March 2005, the Catastrophy Commission queried Lars Danielsson who then claimed that he had called the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Hans Dahlgren, twice on Dec 26 to inform him of the situation. Dahlgren on the other hand testified to the commission that no such talks had taken place and Danielsson then more or less changed his version. When JO, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, investigated the matter, Danielsson insists that he called Dahlgren twice but cannot remember from which phone. Questions remain, was Danielsson in his office on Dec 26 and who did he call. The government refuses to clear the fog with reference to state security.

And as often when a question is left unanswered it leaves the field open for speculations and rumours, and this case was no exception. A rumour among journalists was that Danielsson can’t reveal what he did on the 26th because he was actually with a female companion, a certain Assistant Undersecretary. But no journalists were able to get this rumour confirmed and therefore no articles were written about it. Instead the rumour was discussed on the internet forum Flashback in a thread started on Feb 16, 2006. Peter Wennblad at Neo claims he heard the rumour a week earlier. On Feb 17, two liberal bloggers posted the rumours. Johan Ingerö runs the blog Right Online [dead link] and he was the first blogger to write about the story, followed shortly after by Johanna Nylander.

But it wasn’t until last week that the story really exploded in media and the two bloggers found themselves in the middle of a major news event. The rumour was not true. Ingerö was now the main target and he made a complete fool out of himself when he was interviewed on the news.

Bloggers at the center of a crisis

So for the first time in Sweden, bloggers were at the centre of a major crisis, resulting in accusations, spin and counter-spin. Marita Ulvskog, party secretary of the Social Democrats accused bloggers from the Liberal Party of “creating the story”, which apparently was a bit far fetched. Resumé claims today that Social Democrats were trying to get media to blame the liberal bloggers as part of the PR strategy.

Ingerö eventually found no other way out of the situation than to pull the plug on his blog (Google cache here). However it didn’t take long until someone kidnapped the URL and launched a parody of Right Online on the same address. Nylander did the right thing and apologized for the damage her blog had caused.

Now, what an excellent opportunity for mainstream media to go after the blogosphere. Bloggers posted unconfirmed rumours that later turned out not to be true, while the press held the rumours out of the papers because they couldn’t get a credible source to confirm it. At least that’s what they want us to believe. In reality the tabloids wrote articles that did almost everything except spell it out in writing. Either way, the requests for ethical rules for bloggers now come pouring in.

– Bloggers have completely different demands for truth than we do, says Aftonbladet’s managing editor Niklas Silow.

You thought that hell would freeze over or that Finland would win the Eurovision Song Contest before you heard tabloid Aftonbladet swing the ethics sword at bloggers, but there you go.

In Dagens Nyheter, Nils Öhman suggests ethical rules for bloggers. In Computer Sweden, Anders Lotsson is disappointed at bloggers:

– So I don’t believe in blogs as an alternative to established media.

But the call for all bloggers to abide to an ethical standard or in general act the way journalists do, is to look at blogs from the wrong angle. Bloggers helped keep the story about Danielsson’s whereabouts alive and it finally last week lead to a decision from Danielsson to take a time out. Had this happened if bloggers hadn’t written about the story? Don’t know. Has the question been answered? Definitely no. Did some bloggers step over the line? Definitely yes. But that does not mean that blogs as a medium don’t work or that we all suddenly are supposed to act as journalists, except without pay.

Filter, then publish

The traditional publishing model for journalism is to filter then publish. The blogosphere works the other way around – publish, then filter. Johan Ingerö who was the first blogger to publish the rumours got humiliated on national tv, his blog has been shut down and I don’t expect to see him running a successful blog in the near future. He got punished for not checking the facts (not my job, he claimed). That’s the way blogs filter fact from fiction and we will have to put up with some crap and lies because the pros outweigh the cons.

Naturally there are people who will be hurt by what some bloggers write and there are laws that protect us from the worst cases. I don’t see that a blogger code of ethics will save us from stupidity. It’s not the morons that will sign up for that code anyway.

This quote (in We Media, pdf) from Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor at New York University, and the graph below, give us an idea of what we might expect from future publishing models:

“The order of things in broadcast is ‘filter, then publish’. The order in communities is ‘publish, then filter’. If you go to a dinner party, you don’t submit your potential comments to the hosts, so that they can tell you which ones are good enough to air before the group, but this is how broadcast works everyday. Writers submit their stories in advance, to be edited or rejected before the public ever sees them. Participants in a community, by contrast, say what they have to say, and the good is sorted from the mediocre after the fact.”

There will be other cases when bloggers make huge mistakes, and others when they contribute to a story. I just hope that the blogosphere can help keep the kettle burning under Danielsson during his time out so that we eventually will get an answer to what he did on Dec 26, 2004.

Göran Persson, I want my 10 800 kronor

I seldom discuss politics on this blog, but today I feel compelled to do so. The benefits for Swedish parents that choose to stay home on maternity or paternity leave are among the best in the world. We are guaranteed compensation of 80 percent of our salary up to a certain level for 390 days, to be shared between the father and the mother. That’s all very well. Now, on top of that, parents also get 90 days, called “garantidagar” (guarantee days), with a compensation of 60 kronor per day, so basically most Swedes (compensation depends on your salary) that give birth to a baby have a strong financial support from the system.

Now, the Swedish Government has suggested that the compensation during these 90 days shall be increased from 60 kronor to 180 kronor, but that will only apply for children born on 1 July 2006 or later. This means that the parents of a child born on the evening of 30 June will miss out on compensation of 10,800 kronor, about 1,150 euro.

The social democrats explain this choice:
– It would simply be too expensive to let this increase apply to everyone on parental leave. There is a risk that all parents would use their guarantee days even if they don’t really need it, says press secretary Anna Karin Wallberg.

Read that again, slowly. There is a risk that parents will exercise their rights, even if they don’t need it!

What a brilliant logic. But of course, this is not the entire story. In fact, the government saves about 600-700 million kronor per year because parents don’t use all their days in the parent’s insurance. Guarantee days make up between 50 and 100 million a year, according to RFV.

In the article from Dagens Nyheter it says that parents with children under 8 years old, have 30 million guarantee days saved. But don’t be fooled here, that’s the total figure. According to a report (pdf) by RFV in 2002, between 85 and 92 percent of all guarantee days get used up, so the argument that people will use 30 million guarantee days “they don’t need” is not valid. More than 9 out of 10 days are used by ordinary parents, just like the lucky ones who get babies after 1 July 2006.

That means that if 90 percent of all guarantee days would be used anyway, the only additional cost for the remaining 10 percent (3 million days) would be 540 million kronor (180 million + 360 million for the increase to 180 kr/day). I think that is a low cost for doing the right thing and not discriminate parents of children being born before 1 July.

(By now I figure you’ve guessed that me and my wife are having a baby in May this year.)

Social Democrat behind email campaign analyzed latest election

Fredrik Reinfeldt, the leader of the Swedish Moderate party, has been the target of a dirty email campaign containing false accusations. The person behind the emails turned out to be a senior employee in the Social Democratic Party and one of Prime Minister Göran Persson’s closest men. According to media reports he was responsible for analyzing opinion polls.

But he did more than that. He was one of eight people in a committee that analyzed (pdf) the latest election – the 2004 election to the EU Parliament. The group came up with suggestions for future elections based on the analysis. He was in other words a central figure in the party’s campaign strategy planning.

“Valresultatet i EU-parlamentsvalet den 13 juni 2004 blev mycket sämre än vad vi hade förväntat oss och långt under de mål vi ställt upp, både när det gäller valdeltagandet och vårt eget resultat. Det låga valdeltagandet är något vi delar med många länder runt om i unionen, det är också fler partier i vårt land som har anledning att fundera över resultatet.

Men trots det finns det skäl för oss socialdemokrater att göra en egen noggrann analys av valresultatet. Inte minst för att systematisera våra erfarenheter, både organisatoriska och politiska, till nästa riksdagsval 2006.

George Bush goes astroturfing

Astroturfing – faking grassroots movements – is not a new phenomenon. PR flacks and spin doctors have been using it for years. But with increasing transparency from blogs and media watchdogs, these campaigns can now be more easily discovered than before. This week Daily Kos revealed an astroturf initiative from the George W Bush campaign, which has found its way into at least 60 newspapers.

(Link via Poynter Online.)