Late last week it was announced that the editor of Morgunblaðið – one of Iceland’s two main dailies – had been let go. The reason given was conflicting opinions on the direction and operations of the paper.
Morgunblaðið is an Icelandic institution. It has been published since 1913 or thereabouts and has traditionally been a mouthpiece for the Independence Party – the party that essentially led Iceland into ruin. For a few short weeks after the collapse, Morgunbladid was owned by its creditors – until the present owners stepped in. At that time, the paper flourished – published all sorts of content that they otherwise might not have done. That changed when the new owners came in and fired some of the paper’s heavyweights. The new owners are a consortium of Independence Party supporters.
Yesterday was a big day at Morgunblaðið. First of all, around 30 people were let go – including journalists who have worked at the paper for decades. Secondly, it was announced who the new editor is: Davíð Oddsson, disgraced Central Bank director and former Prime Minister.
The confirmation came after days of speculation that this was the case. And the outrage here is palpable. As many of you already know, Oddsson is one of the main players in the economic collapse. He was the one who set about economic reforms during his 13-year term as Prime Minister [the longest-serving PM in Iceland’s history] and implemented the free-market capitalism that has now imploded. He was Prime Minister when the banks were privatized, and it was he who intervened in the privatization process, broke all the rules, and sold the banks to hand-picked friends of the party, with disastrous results. As director of the Central Bank, Oddsson failed to use the tools at his disposal to regulate the banks. Indeed, I wonder if a massive donation that Landsbanki made to the IP in late 2006 had anything to do with the fact that Oddsson failed to regulate the growth of those horrible Icesave accounts, which has turned into a major catastrophe for the nation. And throughout, Oddsson has – true to form – loudly maintained his innocence, blamed everyone else but himself, and shown the most outrageous arrogance to the citizens of this nation.
And now, Oddsson is at the helm of one of the country’s major newspapers. Next week, it will be one year since the collapse of the economy. The media here is busy reviewing the events that led up to it. What will Morgunblaðið’s take be? In November, the first parliamentary report on the collapse will be published, and the head of the investigative committee has already warned the nation that it is BAD. How will the journalists at Morgunblaðið be able to write about that report in any sort of credible or independent manner?
Bad as it is to be fired, I wonder if it isn’t worse to keep one’s job under such circumstances. I feel terribly sorry for the people who are still left at Morgunblaðið, because I suspect the atmosphere there will be one of oppression and manipulation – the qualities that many of us associate with Doddsson. I myself terminated my subscription to Morgunblaðið this morning – via email, because I could not get through to the subscriptions department. I know there is a mass exodus of subscribers, and those of us who have had mbl.is as our browser home page have now changed it. I also know that there are many bloggers considering leaving blog.is, which is the Morgunblaðið blogging platform.
So, yes – a big day for Morgunblaðið yesterday, and another divide between the two nations that live in this country – those who think Doddsson is the cat’s ass, and those of us who, er, don’t.
IT’S A PERFECTLY AMIABLE DAY
The light just beautiful – subtle sunshine, a lovely autumn day. Gentle winds. Cool, though. Temperatures right now 6°C [43F]. The sun came up at 7.18 and will set at 7.19.