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Antti Majander

Antti Leo Kalevi Majander
Born July 19, 1961, Helsinki.

Master of Arts (Comparative Literature), 1989, University of Helsinki

Literary Editor-in-Chief, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, 2000-
Assistant and Reporter, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, 1983–2000

Written by Heta Muurinen (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by John Calton

Self-confidence and humility: all the cultural journalist needs

Antti Majander reckons you learn the journalist’s trade by doing.

– One advantage of university studies is that you come to understand that there are other geniuses out there. Theh journalist’s job is not so much to know as to try to find out and then to present significant knowledge.

Majander started off in journalism working during one summer for a local paper Länsiväylä. His first work with the main Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat was to write book reviews. The transition from studying to working life was, in his own words, long and painful.

– Zero hours contracts’ are nothing new; they existed in the 1980s. I was at it for about a decade.

Later the situation had shown little signs of improving.

– It’s impossible to get a job in the press without work experience, but then how are you supposed to get that work experience? Typically you start on a local paper, but getting a break in this way is harder than ever these days.

Majander was appointed to his current post as literary editor in 2000. He had just signed a contract to work on the paper’s Sunday edition. The tehn head of the culture section, Heikki Hellman, offered Majander the literary job when Pekka Tarkka retired.

– The invitation came as a surprise, I was flattered, and still feel privileged: there aren’t too many jobs like it in this country.

In the current media climate, there’s little room for specialist journalists; everyone is doing anything, and anyone has to be able to do everything. So even though Majander’s job description is specific, he too has to do things like write up the Eurovision Song Contest for the web edition.

– If you’re looking to go into journalism, you’ve got to be able to get on with people. You can’t take the line that some job isn’t worth my time and trouble.

But whilst a degree of humility is necessary, so too is self-possession.

– You have to believe in your view and trust in your intuitions, as a critic at any rate. University studies strengthen both your ability and resolve to read things with a critical eye.

Majander has had trouble with a number of literary theories for example.

– I see no reason why praise is heaped on the canon of classical authors. Literary studies are theories based on a theory, there’s always a new theory to challenge the previous one. It’s never a finite state, nor does it need to be.

Majander hasn’t had time to follow current developments in literary studies: time to read his own selection of literature has been in short supply.

– The books for review have to be read in the evenings. I don’t get to read many books in a year out of my own free choice.”



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