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Leif Salmén

Leif Henry Salmén
Born January 19, 1952, Helsinki

Studies in the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Social Sciences (Philosophy major) 1971–6, University of Helsinki

Political reporter at FBC TV1’s news desk 1984–1989
Political reporter at TV-Nytt 1978–1984
Reporter at FBC’s Swedish language current affairs programme 1976–1978
Reporter at Suomen Tietotoimisto news agency 1973–1975

Eino Leino Prize 2013
Tollander Prize 2009
Längmanska Cultural Foundation Prize 2006
Kivipää Award 2001
State three-year artist’s grant 1998
State scientific publication award 1985
Finnish-Swedish publishing prize 1984
Society for Swedish Literature in Finland’s Award 1979, 1984, 1987, 1991

Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho
Written by Heta Muurinen (Tero Juutilainen, ed.)
Translated by
Joe McVeigh

Be yourself, reporter

As a political reporter at FBC, Leif Salmén is remembered particularly for his poignant style in campaign debates. He posed tough questions based on extensive background research, intimidating the political candidates.

‘I brought the Anglo-American way of handling political issues to Finnish television journalism. Before I came in the picture, reporters didn’t comment much on the content. But I did. I was openly myself and expressed my own views during the interviews. And I certainly succeeded in that.’

Salmén was tired of the ‘curtain of objectivity’ that was shrouding the production of TV programs.

‘It’s impossible. It’s better to be present as yourself, warts and all. For the sheer sake of the quality of public discussion it’s important not to go with it all and tuck away the bad bits, but openly bring up the contradictions and differences and diversity that are a part of politics.’

Salmén’s first steady job was at the Suomen Tietotoimisto news agency (STT), where he started working during his studies in 1973. After that he paid a quick visit to the world of theatre, and later started working at FBC, first on the Swedish and later on the Finnish side.

‘I was interested in societal matters. Writing and self-expression came naturally to me. It felt like my thing. Still does.’

In the 1980s, Salmén became a feared and appreciated public figure. He worked hard and long. Eventually he tired and had enough of all the flurry.

‘I started feeling like there was more to life than political journalism. I went to Barcelona and started living off writing. After that I haven’t had a day job.’

Salmén’s life is reading and writing.

‘I’ve stayed curious. In fact I’m more curious than ever.’

Salmén’s new book is due to come out next year. Like many of his previous works, it is about the Mediterranean. What is special about the Mediterranean?

‘I studied Latin at the Helsinki Normal Lyceum, I grew up with Caesar. Philosophy studies at the university are also based on Greek philosophy. I’ve carried the Mediterranean with me since then, as a spiritual home. I’ve also spent a lot of time in the area, on all the coasts.’

Salmén is next taking off to Smyrna on the western coast of Turkey. There he is going to finish off the final lines of his new book.

Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho.​
Photo: Heini Lehväslaiho.​


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