“It’s draining when you’re not part of a success for a long period of time”

By Natasha Jahanshahi

Caspar Birk (43) is an investigative journalist at the Danish regional newspaper, Nordjyske. Earlier this month, he celebrated his 15-year anniversary with the newspaper. In this interview, he talks about how digitalization has changed his workload and what it’s like to work on a newspaper that struggles financially and which is trying their best to survive.

Photo by Torben Hansen

How has your workload changed over the years?
For me, the biggest change is that I no longer work as a reporter but as an investigative journalist. To be a part of the investigative group is significantly different than working in any other group at our newspaper, because we don’t have that daily pressure of having to deliver stories every single day.

Has the digitalization of news affected your work as an investigative journalist – and how?
It definitely has. There are new things I have to consider now. When I work on an investigative story, I don’t necessarily follow the classic news triangle. But today, it is so important that the reader knows what the story is about very quickly. Therefore, we often have to write a different introduction and headline for the online version of the stories.

How do you feel about this change?
I actually feel like it has given a sense of renewed energy and inspiration. Before, I could get kind of stuck in a rut, but now I have to be extra creative and think about how I can make the story perform best on social media and online. I have decided to really make an effort in doing this, because I realize that it is necessary if we want to make an income online. Instead of seeing the digitalization as a hindrance I chose to see it as something positive, because I am the type of person who never ever gives up.

Things are moving faster and faster in the news industry; do you think there is a place for investigative journalism in the future?
Well… I hope so. When I look at our statistics, I see that our investigative stories are read a lot by our subscribers and people really spend a lot of time reading them. But still… in our investigative group we don’t deliver stories day to day, so whether or not there will be money to keep doing that, I don’t know. I just hope so.

Nordjyske has experiences two rounds of layoffs this year and you have another one coming this January, do you feel like journalism is a less stable field to work in today?
Hell yes. After a round of layoffs at Nordjyske in 2009 I thought ”oh well, I guess that’s how it is. We are not making enough money. But at the next round of layoffs it started to really get to me and made me feel down. It’s not fun to be in a business where things are going in a negative direction. It just gets reinforced when I see friends and acquaintances posting their successes on Facebook. It’s draining when you’re not part of a success for a long period of time.