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The return of Doddsson

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.

MORE ABOUT DODDSSON:
Doddsson knows why the British invoked terrorist legislation
We, the brainwashed rabble of this land
Doddsson’s tirade
Anatomy of an Icelandic riot

Comments

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  • Paul H September 25, 2009, 10:31 am

    Wow.
    [short stunned silence]
    It will be interesting to see how a newspaper does with virtually no readership, eh.
    We no longer get any newspapers.
    It is a dead medium as far as we are concerned.
    Our local paper gave us fewer and fewer reasons to read it.
    Until one day we decided that the only need we had for it was for helping to start a fire (wood stove or bbq).
    Newspapers burn well, that’s about it.
    Enjoy the cost saving.

  • Ljósmynd DE September 25, 2009, 11:37 am

    At least, there is no hidden agenda anymore at Morgunblaðið – it is obvious and palpable. I think, nobody would expect journalistic integrity from this zombie-paper anymore.

    If so many subscribers are leaving, they might be in need of another debt write-off pretty soon. I guess, the current owners will take care of this.

    What is to be expected from this propaganda-instrument-to-be? Anti-government rants? Inflammatory Anti-EU pamphlets, which so easily take a turn towards xenophobia? Definitely a propaganda war and many articles attempting to rewrite history. And otherwise much yellow press stuff and other sleeping pills to avert readers’ attention.

    With so many journalists laid off, this should be the time to launch a new paper as counterweight. And blogs might become even more important now.

  • alda September 25, 2009, 12:01 pm

    Well said.

    Yes, I think independent web sites and blogs will become increasingly important now. The big challenge will be how to get paid for our efforts.

  • Kris September 25, 2009, 2:14 pm

    I thought Doddson was gong to be a Lear story, but now he is in a trilogy (return of the anti-hero). Part II: Oddson: Editor in Chief! I guess for tragedy there needs to be some type of self-reflection. I was hoping to hear new about him being sighted wandering around in the moors reciting poetry to his fool.
    I wonder if he is going to feature poetry in the editorial section? It was my understanding that he was going to retire to write poetry. The MB could be a nice venue for that.
    This Icelandic story is becoming one of my favorite soap operas. Just when you thought it was becoming a dull graft story there is a fabulous twist. Now what he needs to do is something big, like Gore inventing the Internet (or discovering climate change) or Putin shooting a bear.
    Kris

  • Jennifer September 25, 2009, 2:16 pm

    Really beyond belief.

    I would be interested to hear something about the other major daily newspaper mentioned in the post, and how that paper is covering the changes at Morgunblaðið.

    In an age of increasing specialization it seems especially strange that one person could be considered qualified by anyone for the very different jobs of prime minister, Central Bank Director and editor.

  • Gordon September 25, 2009, 4:20 pm

    Does the other major paper have an online English news section or aggregator?

  • Silvia Planchett September 25, 2009, 4:59 pm

    See? I told you so. There is no god!

  • Alexander E. September 25, 2009, 8:04 pm

    So what’s next – RUV by Haarde?
    But this is not a problem actually.
    The problem is –
    what might be done to fix the problem – before it’s really too late.

  • Dean September 25, 2009, 9:30 pm

    When the three banks collapsed a year ago, the government moved the savings to “New” banks.

    Why not have the fired journalists pick up the pieces and form “New” Morgunblaðið?

  • WiseWoman September 25, 2009, 10:07 pm

    Alright, I’ve deleted the mbl.is feed. Which of the other sorry excuses for a newspaper do you suggest I subscribe to via RSS to at least keep my reading Icelandic up?

  • alda September 25, 2009, 10:38 pm

    Kris – I love the image of Doddsson as King Lear ranting to his fool (who would be Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson, as any Icelander will tell you). Alas, though, it doesn’t look like self-reflection is in the cards, although the blindness is there!

    Jennifer – Fréttablaðið published one small item about it on p. 2 today. They don’t need to go over the top – the whole society is up in arms anyway, and I bet they’re just sitting there, gloating.

    Gordon – not that I’m aware of. But then mbl.is’s English aggregator was just the Iceland Review news feed.

    Silvia – some people would beg to differ with you, and tell you that Doddsson is, in fact, god.

    Wise Woman – well, I moved my home page to eyjan.is. You just have to be careful not to click on their mbl.is links. 😉

  • cactusZonie September 25, 2009, 10:42 pm

    The “New Media” are bloggers , Huffington , etc… who really reads the worthless print anymore?
    zzzz zzzzz zzzz

    Keep up the good work !

  • Easy September 25, 2009, 11:55 pm

    As in the political parties, newspapers are all and the same. For me it is amazeing the absolute silence from ALL the media about the Icesave situation, its been 10 days since the news about the brits and the dutch had allready answer to de emandaments, and nobody has mention anything at all since then, not a word, are they accepting the demands of the brits and dutch, will they reject it, will it go to parlament again, or have they just accepted the deal without telling the icelandic nation a single word, but the fact that nobody is asking(talking about the media) is really strange, you can understand if one newspaper or another plays along, but ALL? I dont get it. well I do get it…..
    This is worse than a 3rd world country where the goberment has TOTAL controll of the media. Or the goberment has played its cards so well on getting people bored and frustrated about the situation, that nobody wants to know anymore? and then they give us something to talk about during the week(david odsson) so we don’t even talk about the other things anymore. By the time they say something, they have allready taken a decition. So, people go and protest, off course the very same day or if its possible the day AFTER.

  • James September 26, 2009, 1:34 am

    REYKJAVIK (Reuters) – Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir today announced plans to introduce a bill of legislation in the Icelandic parliament Althingi requiring that newspaper editors must have completed a master’s degree in journalism and have extensive experience and expertise in journalistic issues.

  • idunn September 26, 2009, 5:18 am

    Why would Davíð Oddsson fire Morgunblaðið staff of long duration if it the mouthpiece for the IP, with his and their views presumably similar? But if feeling some of them have integrity, maybe you should hire them and extend the reach of this blog? I’m at least half serious on that score.

    Good to hear at least that Morgunblaðið is losing subscribers. If Mr Oddsson free to take control of a major newspaper, the citizens of Iceland free not to read it.

    Sure this phenomenon is widespread, with private owners of major media outlets having a disproportionate voice in national affairs. Pity that so many listen to them. There is also the trend, certainly in the USA, of newspapers in bankruptcy due a fundamental change in business models. As hard as they’ve tried no one has yet come up with a workable strategy in transition to the internet. I see no reason why the advertising will not follow readers, but this a dilemma of the moment. Not a good thing for any democracy, with few enough as it is seriously following affairs of state, with fewer sources of information only acerbating such disregard.

    On the other hand, your blog and others present a wealth of timely information that was never possible before. Such fantastic resources. There is a business model in there somewhere.

  • Ljósmynd DE September 26, 2009, 7:33 am

    To me this looks like a Harry Potter type of story with the Dark Lord on the rise again, worshiped by his Death Eaters. Unfortunately, in this case the story is lacking Harry Potter himself, fighting the evil.

  • alda September 26, 2009, 10:51 am

    James – heheh! Good one.

    Idunn – maybe you should hire them and extend the reach of this blog — heheh, also a good one! Perhaps if this blog earned enough to support even myself I might consider it. As it is, I make about enough to buy myself one meal in a mid-range restaurant per month, without wine – and that’s before taxes.

    As many people have pointed out, newsprint is on the way out and blogs etc. are the future. To which I say, I hope they come up with a business model soon, because this model is not sustainable. Most of the bloggers I knew when I started out have given up – I think they figured it wasn’t worth giving away their work for free.

  • WTF September 26, 2009, 10:52 am

    what a same to write like this. this is what has happened, more than half of icelandic population has been brainwashed by what is called Baugsmiðlar – owned by the man who actually caused the collapse of the icelandic economy, with his outrageously wrong LBO investments. Dear Icelandic weather report do you seriously think Baugsmiðlar would be any better writing about upcoming outcome of the investigative committee? I dont think so, so Im happy we have finally gotten a more balanced view in the media flora here in Iceland, than the monopoly we have had here for years.

  • alda September 26, 2009, 12:40 pm

    WTF – well yes, I think it’s pretty obvious by now that I am one of the brainwashed rabble of this land. However, I am of the firm view that deflecting blame to somewhere else does not make one inculpable, so you’ll have to come up with stronger arguments than that if you wish to convince me. And also give your real name.

  • Col Matheson September 26, 2009, 2:39 pm

    As I looked back at the …one of the brainwashed rabble of this land…post, I noticed that the last comment by Kokomjolk said..”.I’m thinking Doddson will be the new editor in chief for Morgunbladid”, Wow!! that was six months ago, we really did hear it here first!

  • alda September 26, 2009, 3:02 pm

    Col – some people are more prescient than others. 🙂

  • Ljósmynd DE September 26, 2009, 3:36 pm

    It is funny to notice, that the public dialogue in Iceland, particularly with Doddsson & followers, is reminiscent of the situation in Western Germany 30 or 40 years ago in cold-war times, when criticism of the prevalent social or political conditions was often met by allegations, to be brainwashed by communists – which spares the effort of finding a matter-of-fact counter-argument. It’s a characteristic of a bipolar world, with a conception of people as followers of either ideology, lined up like ducks (or sheep) without own reasoning. Unfortunately, this is always to the disadvantage of ambivalence, objectivity and impartiality.

    I fear, that this style of polarizing political discussion in Iceland is furthered by Doddsson getting this job.

  • Silvia Planchett September 26, 2009, 6:41 pm

    Touché Alda touché!

  • Scott September 26, 2009, 7:20 pm

    Regarding WTF´s comment, I do wish we had a better sense of what the “Bauger” group/paper´s slant is on the news. I don´t think having a raging egotist take over the opposing side brings balance, it´s more like a Scylla and Charybdis scenario. But while I know what the IP stands for, more or less (hell on earth), how we are intended to be manipulated by other forces is less clear. Perhaps that´s an article for another day.

  • alda September 26, 2009, 7:34 pm

    WTF – I know that in the past, the 365 owners tried to have a direct influence on some of their editors. Not sure what it’s like now, but obviously they don’t lay any harsh criticism on their owners – although some of their columnists do. I do think it’s different, though – I think if Jón Ásgeir was appointed editor of Fréttablaðið we’d see a similar outcry.

  • Inside Bilderberg September 26, 2009, 10:00 pm

    The klown returns, there is no escaping from the corrupt idiot.

  • Max September 26, 2009, 11:18 pm

    I really hope that someone starts a new newspaper—perhaps the fired journalists from Moggi could get together and form an independent publication.

    Much like how splinter political groups and parties were formed during the bank collapse.

  • Kris September 28, 2009, 5:14 pm

    Rumor has it that Google is working on a micro-payment scheme. Maybe that will lead to a better way to monetize blogs. A penny for my toughs!
    All newspapers are backing a political agenda. For a better understanding you need to read a Communist paper, a Capitalist paper and then study up on a little philosophy and psychology. And above all, spend some time studying propaganda and all its devices. We are swimming in a sea of propaganda and unless you understand its ways, you are lost. And if your lost, come sailing with me!
    They want to bomb Iran, so here is the pitch: Big nuke plants are for civic purposes, little ones are for research. But the ones in-between…they are the nasty little weapons plants. Every paper, every channel, all across the country (USA). Snif snif. Ooh, that is some stinky propaganda.
    Cause determines effect except in politics. Effects determine the cause. Why, because you will get anything but the truth about political actions and their consequences. That is why you need to work backwards for the best result.
    If your economy was found dead with a gunshot would to the head, it probably wasn’t an accident, even though all the likely suspects say it was. If you are investigating politicians (criminals) you need to conduct a criminal investigation! IMHO
    Kris

  • Paul Lettan September 29, 2009, 12:18 am

    You’ll be pleased to know that the British Daily Telegraph took 3 days to catch up with your story. It’s running in today’s edition, 29.09.09.

  • Dave Hambidge September 29, 2009, 6:31 am

    It has been my firm opinion over the last 12 months that what happens in ‘usedtobeniceland’ is a microcosm and warning of what will happen in UK and beyond as the whole dreadful modern day saga of financial collapse becomes clear.

    An essential part of the new-way will be independent news through blogs, twitter (much as I loathe twittering) and social networking. Then, the power of the great media outlets will reduce. By how far and how quickly?

    dave

  • Jimmy Nails March 4, 2010, 8:54 am

    Over here in the Philippines, the newspapers and reporters are by and large being paid to slant thier stories one way or another. It is very difficult to get to the truth of any situation, especially politics.

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