STOCKHOLM, Sweden — The train from Stockholm headed west and took about 50 minutes to arrive in the town of Västerås on this fall day under cloudy skies. Here, the walk from the train station crossed cobbled streets, a leaf-covered city park, and led to a nondescript building that houses MittMedia, home of a stable of digital and print newspapers that cover the central part of this country of about 10 million people.
I was here with other editors as part of the World Editor's Forum, looking into newsrooms in both Sweden and Norway following the annual Newsroom Summit in Oslo with editors from all over the world from some of the strongest brands in journalism.
All of us are searching for ways to provide the strongest news report and relevant commentary to impact the lives of readers. There are innovative ideas worth embracing, including bridging to next-generation digital newsrooms, using innovative storytelling techniques, including video storytelling, and working to inspire readers to action.
Some ideas make editors nervous, like MittMedia's use of robots and algorithms to tell sports stories about games in outlying areas that otherwise would have no coverage at all. When a series of facts about the game are input, an algorithm decides how best to describe the game action and produces a story.
MittMedia is not the only organization using this technology and it serves a certain purpose. But the editors here note deficiencies, such as when a forfeited soccer match was spit out as a lopsided 5-0 victory. "You do know that the game was forfeited don't you?" said readers in calls to the editors. But algorithms could play a role in revealing real estate transactions or other data and information that may be of use to readers.
The Deseret News is not moving to robots for its coverage. But we are trying to tell stories that go in-depth, make stronger use of video, and perhaps most importantly, we are looking for ways to inspire to action. Which leads to two notable efforts last week that could coalesce into action for Utah residents.
I'm referring to the need for Utah to overcome long-standing problems of geography and temperature inversions to keep air pollution at bay, and the push to return the Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City as early as 2030.
I previously highlighted the work of Deseret News reporter Erica Evans, whose deep-dive into the solutions the city of Oslo, Norway, is implementing to fight air pollution can in some respects be duplicated in Salt Lake City. Last week she added to her work by describing in both video and word just what it will take for each of us to embrace change. Can we inspire ourselves to action?
Her video story, "Is it possible to live without a car in Salt Lake City? We tried. Here's what happened," shows her journey and the obstacles she had to overcome to live without a car. We're not trying to inspire people to give up their cars, but to make incremental changes that will help make the air cleaner. And there are lessons for city and county leaders as well, about where sidewalks or bike paths are needed to encourage use of public transit.
The video is accompanied by the story of Rob Weidmann, who built habits into his life that are a solution to some of our air problems. It analyzes the psychology of change and what it will take for each of us to be inspired to not just help ourselves, but also to help our neighbors have a more breathable and enjoyable quality of life.
Erica writes: "Learning facts (fewer cars on the road leads to cleaner air) or even knowing right from wrong (burning wood on red air days can make things worse for neighbors with asthma) doesn't change behavior, psychologists said. Breaking habits or forming new ones requires not just knowledge but emotional and environmental influences as well."
Sharing a common goal can help provide motivation. Which leads us to the Olympics. Utahns came together in the years prior to the 2002 Winter Games to improve infrastructure, volunteer time and labor, and meet the challenge of an event that was once shrouded in scandal but helped a nation overcome the horrible terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. The Games were a success.
Utah again has a chance to show the world there is a successful way to conduct the Games, and the 2030 date can also become part of a decade-long effort to make a significant dent in air pollution. We can improve our health and show the world just what makes Utah a great place to live.
As Deseret News Opinion Editor Boyd Matheson wrote last week:2 comments on this story
"Part of the Utah model strategy includes the economic vision of Utah being an international destination and global business player. Utah continues to invest in things that matter. As a result, the state will have a superior airport, better access, infrastructure and proven venues than any potential host city — because this isn’t just hope for an Olympics: It is a strategy for the future of the state."
So what about the air we breathe? Can it become a priority?
Finding a strategy to clean the air goes hand-in-hand with this dynamic economic future and the desire to return the eyes of the world to the Wasatch Front. That then spreads "The Utah Model" around the world, even to places like Västerås, Sweden, Oslo, Norway, or any other place in search of people who know how to get things accomplished.