You've probably come across Den Korte Avis' articles in your news feed. They're usually endorsed by that Facebook friend that "isn't racist BUT.." and framed by catchy little clickbait headlines like "Shocking Revelation: Terrorists can let themselves be infected with ebola and cross borders to commit mass murder by contagion." These kind of stories are quite typical of the self-proclaimed newspaper, which publishes short, concise news stories, more often than not about Islam or immigration and uncomfortably packaged in an obviously biased and partial tone. They claim their website had 1.3 million visitors in October alone, so it's safe to say that the clickbait approach is probably working.
Lately, Den Korte Avis has gotten a lot of heat for the manner in which it handles its business, so I decided to try to interview the editors.
The two founders of Den Korte Avis are a married couple by the names Ralf Pittelkow and Karen Jespersen. Ralf Pittelkow is a former political advisor and commentator, Karen Jespersen is a former minister for Socialdemokraterne and Venstre. Both are, as it turns out, notoriously hard to get in touch with.
My quest for an interview started on Den Korte Avis' website. Finding an email address for Editor-in-Chief, Ralf Pittelkow proved easy enough, but the joy was short-lived. The account was hosted at post.tele.dk - a time machine to an era when internet subscriptions came on CD-Roms and downloading 56k porn was an all day investment. This didn't exactly get me excited about a quick reply, to be honest.
I spent the next few days refreshing my mail, but my inbox remained conspicuously empty. I decided to move on to plan b; to reach out to Karen Jespersen instead. I put together a rather reasonable mail politely informing her that I wanted to know about all the successes and challenges that Den Korte Avis has experienced. Unfortunately my email bounced back.
To be fair, I did want to know about the success and challenges of Den Korte Avis. But I also wanted to know why two highly educated and seemingly intelligent people would partake in such journalistic malice. I tried the phone number listed on the website, but it went straight to voice mail. I left a couple of equally polite messages, but no reply.
Den Korte Avis brands itself as clear, sharp and serious. Eh, let's not get ahead of ourselves now lads, yeah? Even calling yourself a newspaper is a bit of a stretch. In 2013, they received 88.000 kroner in media subsidies from the government, but they're not even registered with The Press Complaint Council. This literally means that they can't be held accountable for such trivialities as, oh I don't know, press ethics.
Let me quickly provide an example of how this non-accountability works in practice.
Mohammed Halloum is a board member and player for the football team AKF, the local team of Aarhus suburb Brabrand. A suburb with a high population of folks of immigrant descent. His team was having a successful season and with three rounds to go, they had already secured themselves a promotion. AKF's team consists of many nationalities and Mohammed Halloum figured a newspaper might be interested in telling the story of a team that worked together to improve the life of those living in a troubled area. A sort of sporty integration fairytale, altogether charming.
"We felt that we had a good story, so we wrote a press release and sent it out to various news outlets. We don't have any media training, and we made a bit of a mistake when one of our players accidentally sent the press release to Den Korte Avis. In less than 24 hours, they wrote us back," Mohammed Halloum told me over the phone, which made me jealous given the fact that they were ignoring me.
After looking into Den Korte Avis, the team decided that it probably wasn't the best media outlet for the team or their story.
"We couldn't find a single article about immigrants that wasn't negative. So we decided not to do the interview."
Den Korte Avis ran a story anyway. Fair enough, but instead of focusing on the integration aspect, they wrote about how the team had "suspiciously" backed out of the interview and then proceeded to tie them to Islamic State.
"They wrote a lot stuff that wasn't true; some of it was just straight up lies. If we could have, we would have taken it up with the Press Complaint Council. But we can't because they're not even members."
For the most part, you'd have a hard time arguing that Den Korte Avis' journalists are impartial. One of them, Poul Erik Andersen, former dean in Odense and member of Islamkritisk Netværk (The Islam Critical Network), is about as impartial in the immigration debate as Clark Kent at a public meeting for the legalization of Kryptonite. In an op-ed in Politiken, the Vice President of the Danish Journalism Association even went as far as saying "Den Korte Avis is not a newspaper, because it doesn't do journalism."
In a last ditch effort to get a chat with the editors, I decided to go to the address listed at the bottom of their web page in Dragør. Maybe they were more into face to face communication?
The city of Dragør lies at south-eastern end of Amager. From the bus, the landscape changes from urban, to desolate, to airport and then to what looks like a 1950's Morten Korch movie. The old part of town is paved with cobblestone and the city is nauseatingly cozy. Not quite sure there was any point of that trip where I couldn't spot at least three Danish flags flapping around. Oh, the national pride.
Den Korte Avis HQ turned out not to be a fortified compound, impenetrable by jihad and common sense, but rather the private residence of the two founders. I knocked on the door, but of course nobody was home. Given Karen Jespersen's Ferris Beuller-esque attendance record while working in Parliament, I thought this was rather odd. Alas, another interview attempt foiled.
I had no luck in finding the editors of Den Korte Avis, but it doesn't really matter, as they are, in fact, not real editors. Den Korte Avis is not a newspaper. Newspapers have journalists, they have an office, they are accountable for their articles, offer an open line of communication and strive to be objective. Den Korte Avis doesn't offer very many of those things at all.
Believe it or not, not every Muslim is a terrorist, and not every website calling itself a newspaper is, in fact, a newspaper.