Video: How Radio P4 Kalmar changed election debates into something better

P4 Kalmar Election Debates

In our Lunch Talk in November 2022, we learned how it is possible to renew election debates in radio. Louise Haag, head of news at P4 Kalmar in Sweden told us her story of how Constructive Journalism became the ’new normal’ in her newsroom.

Six years ago, Sveriges Radio, the Swedish public service radio, took an executive decision to launch the ideas of Constructive Journalism – a reform movement that started in Denmark around 2010 – widely throughout the whole news organization. But it was in 2022 when the idea really broke through with election coverage, especially at the regional radio station P4 Kalmar.

“Only look forward. And no mud-slinging.” The instructions were clear when this year’s election coverage format was planned. “We finally dared to take the leap and it felt great”, says Louise Haag, one of Sweden’s leading practitioners of Constructive Journalism. The newsroom in Kalmar decided not to have any traditional debates and to instead coach the politicians into talking about the future in a dialogic manner. For each theme, two politicians were chosen – but not from the extreme ends. More in-depth, less confrontation, but still critical.

Louise Haag is one of the SR editors who most successfully has managed to change the newsroom culture and to inspire her staff members to work differently. What does this mean, in practice, when it comes to election coverage? What has changed and what can be learned by other newsrooms?

The video of the talk and the following discussion can be viewed here: (due to a technical problem, the talk starts abruptly, but right from the spot where Louise starts to describe their format). Examples of the radio shows can be listened online via SR’s website, for example, here and here.