I’ve always believed that one of many obligations scholars have is to make their knowledge known to interested citizens, civil society and media. After all, our education has been paid by taxpayers and why not give them back something?
I am also convinced that it is not only the task of researchers to describe, analyse and criticise the world as it is but also – like a doctor – to outline some kind of treatment, suggest ways towards solving urgent problems. I’m what you may call a policy-oriented scholar.
So how do I reach out?
Newspaper articles & columns
Since the 1970s probably a couple of thousand debate articles, book reviews/notes, comments, columns in predominantly Nordic daily media. I was a regular contributor to the then Danish liberal daily Politiken 1974-1994. And thereafter a regular contributor to the cultural page of Helsingborg Dagblad in Sweden. Then a couple of free dailies and today I write a column every second month or so for the Danish Arbejderen.
Another way to reach out and influence the ways of the world is commenting and being interviewed in radio and television. During a large part of the 1990s, I often participated in the Danish Radio’s leading foreign policy program Orientering, in particular about events in Yugoslavia. Today I’m used very infrequently by Danish media, with the exception of the legendary Arne Hansen Nielsen’s Frederikshavns Local Radio “Dialog”.
Interestingly, Swedish media regularly pay no attention, neither to TFF nor to me.
I’ve been interviewed on countless media once or more times over the years, e.g. Tokyo International Correspondents’ Club, National Public Radio (NPR), CNN, BBC and participated in local media in conflict zones where I have worked.
Since 2014 I am a regular commentator (about once every ten days) on Russia Today – the world’s third-largest TV-network after CNN and al-Jazeera with allegedly 700 million viewers and on Iran’s international TV-network PressTV.
While I am the editor and publisher of the e-mailed TFF PressInfo – 4-5 times a months reaching 10,000 people, 4,000 of which media around the world – I also now and then publish my own stuff through that channel.
Reposting and -printing
Reposting and -printing is a great booster when you want to reach out to the world – and I would like here to thank those who more or less regularly reprint articles that I post either as myself or as director of TFF.
TFF PressInfos are quite regularly re-printed by Dissident Voice, the Pressenza international press agency, CounterPunch, Tuoitre Weekly in Vietnam, News360 news reader app where TFF PressInfos are part of the Publishers Program – to mention some.
In 2016 TFF and I started a permanent co-operation with Human Wrongs Watch – Baher Kamal and The Like.
Some PressInfos lead to interviews from Mexico to Australia on local radio stations or are published here and there on the Internet.
And no, there is no honorarium of any kind involved in doing these things – contrary to, say, 20-30 years ago where experts were entitled to a honorarium for their spoken and written words.
Under the menu Sites you’ll see that I have, for years, systematically tried to build a comprehensive social media presence. According to some measure like Klout – for whatever it is worth – I’m among the 5% most active on the Internet.
I apply the following principles to any request for interviews, studio discussions, panels, articles or other participation in media:
1. I respond positively, in principle, to any request from any media.
2. I expect to be treated professionally and politely, for instance that the title and institutional affiliation I have is respected. And I appreciate that some research has been done before contacting me.
3. Agreements about participation shall be mutually binding. If for instance I have spent time explaining my analysis/arguments/debate points in advance of a program and the editors has informed me that, knowing these, my participation is desired, I expect that agreement to be held in terms of actual participation, that questions agreed upon are actually asked and the agreed role I am supposed to play in the program is the one I actually play.
4. I simply drop journalists and editors who either take my time in the research phase and then drop me for the actual program or change the whole thing between our prior agreement and the live program.
5. If an editorial office wants, say, a 7 min interview with me, 7 or 8 minutes is what I give, not more. I do not grant a journalist or media I work with for the first time more than by and large what is desired in order to maximise my control over what is said and what may be cut out. If a long-term relationship with a media has developed, I may be more generous because then it builds on established trust.
6. Interviewers should record and not just take notes and, first-time interviewers with me will have to submit the written interview for my endorsement before printing.
7. Media that censor, cut out, do political editing, quote me for things I’ve never said or characterise my standpoints as belonging to this or that (pejorative) category or seek to frame me shouldn’t bother about contacting me again.
8. I am grateful for any honorarium. Media like any other commercial enterprises should pay for knowledge and experience – as they pay their own staff members. Independent knowledge is essential for democratic free opinion-formation.
The alternative is to obtain comments only from people who are paid by their party, state organs or business for conveying representative viewpoints. However, I am also aware that over the last 2-3 decades media are generally unable or unwilling to pay for knowledge and, so, it is not a precondition for my participation.
9. I appreciate that media, as a small token of their appreciation, send me print copies, links or other follow-up and alert me to comments or other reactions of importance for my further dialogue with readers, listeners and viewers.