“You should apply.” Those were the words my friend texted me in November 2019. “Think about it! You would spend four weeks in Alabama and a two weeks tour in the USA.” I clicked the link and replied, “Interested.”
We Finns tend to keep communication short and precise. I was grateful for the tip but did not say so. I just complained, “I am super busy and having a seven day work week. I don’t know how to find time for this.”
But I did, and I am so glad for that.
Eventually I realized that those four weeks would not be spent in Alabama but Arizona–or actually, on Zoom. It is amazing how deep this online experience has been: Studies of the U.S. Institutes has given me an opportunity to connect with seventeen other scholars all over the world and deepen my understanding of the U.S. judicial system, politics, society, culture, values, and institutions.
These three weeks have given me so much, and I am going to be processing everything for a long time. Synchronous sessions take a relatively small part of my days but I keep thinking about my fellow scholars, new ideas and perspectives 24/7. I am immersed in the big questions about journalism and democracy in the most diverse way.
Finland has ranked second place in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, and a self-regulating committee The Council for Mass Media in Finland gives us broad shoulders to fight the fake news. But we have a growing problem with hate speech; in addition to encountering hate speech in their work, journalists are also targeted by it, mostly from the far right.
“Susi” is a Finnish word, meaning wolf. It kind of fits: as wolves we SUSI scholars work best in a pack. If we want to fight for journalism and strengthen democracy, we must do it together by listening, learning and studying best practices.
I truly hope that these weeks are just the beginning of everything. And I have just one piece of advice: You too should apply.