By the numbers: A critical look at Den Korte Avis

Den Korte Avis has lately come under fire for a lack of professionalism and for not writing news, despite getting money from the government to do so. Are these allegations true? The Murmur investigates

Since its launch in 2012, Den Korte Avis (DKA) has amassed a substantial readership and a strong presence on social media. Its eye-catching headlines and succinct writing have proved a hit among readers, but the newspaper has also been accused of lacking journalistic professionalism and ethics.

The latest controversy concerns a story the news site ran about a multicultural football team in Aarhus called AKF. They had recently been promoted to the fourth division, and had sent out a press release drawing attention to the team as an example of successful integration.

DKA received the press release and expressed interest in writing a story, but the team decided to turn it down after a team meeting. DKA proceeded to publish an article that can best be described as a speculative exposé, connecting the club to the Islamic State, radicalisation and discrimination against women. The story had no original sources and no comments from AKF other than the original correspondence regarding the article inquiry – correspondence that was published without the club’s consent.

After reading the story on the football club, The Murmur decided to find out if this was an isolated misstep or part of a larger pattern. It’s an important question, especially given DKA’s popularity as a news source on Facebook, where it has over 30,000 followers. In January, it was Denmark’s second-most popular social media news source, according to a study by journalism lecturer Filip Wallberg from the University of Southern Denmark.

To get a better look at DKA’s journalistic approach, The Murmur decided to survey all the articles on the newspaper’s website on a random day – we chose October 22 at around 17:00. We then read each story and placed them in one of five categories. (Click here for a spreadsheet with our findings)

294The topics in numbers
There were 45 stories on the website when we made our survey. 21 were negative stories about Muslims or immigrants, with topics ranging from Muslim gang members in Denmark to a woman in France who was thrown out of the opera for unwittingly breaking the country’s niqab ban. Ten stories were general interest, and five were critiques of left-wing politicians. Of the seven video articles, three were negative stories about Muslims or immigrants. The two remaining articles insinuated that Muslims or immigrants were responsible for criminal acts by specifying that the criminal acts took place in neighbourhoods with large immigrant populations.

In total, 26 of the 45 articles (58 percent) either directly or indirectly cast a negative light on Muslims and immigrants in Denmark.

Around 11 percent of people in Denmark are either immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, according to Statistics Denmark, while fewer than five percent of people living in Denmark are Muslims  according to a University of Aarhus report.

The resulting question is whether DKA’s focus on these minority groups fairly represents them.

Technique errors
The quality of journalism can be assessed on its ability to correctly present information and facts to its readers. Articles must draw conclusions using a solid evidence base, drawn from original reporting or reputable secondary sources.

The Murmur examined the 31 written news stories on DKA’s front page and identified three trends: very few original sources, speculative or subjective conclusions, and a lack of referenced sources.

The lack of reliable sourcing was a major trend. Only two articles used original sources. The remaining articles borrowed all their source material from other media organisations. Newspapers borrow quotes from each other regularly, but online news organisations normally insert a hyperlink back to the source article to give readers context.

In not one article did DKA hyperlink back to the source of a specific fact, claim or quote, and in most articles, sources were not even identified. Although DKA did present a list of sources at the end of seven articles, it cited only the name of the media organisations, and not which stories they referenced.

For example, the article dated October 20, entitled “Supporters of Islamic State revealed to be planning a terrorism attack, indicating a worrying new trend,” lends heavily from an article from the BBC, “Terror-related crime ‘stretches police’ – Scotland Yard”, published on October 17, though no link is made back to the BBC story.

Instead, three sources are listed at the end of the article: the BBCDutchNews and Blazingcatfur. Blazingcatfur is a far-right  blog written by an unknown author and cannot be deemed a reputable news source.

Media accountability
In 2013, DKA received 63,900 kroner from the government through the media support act, which helps fund a diverse range of media in order to promote a healthy democratic debate. Despite being partly publicly-funded, Den Korte Avis is not a member of the Press Council, the independent media complaint tribunal, as online media are not obligated to join. If the football team AKF wanted to report DKA and demand a retraction, they couldn’t.

The Murmur is not alone in casting a critical eye over DKA. The journalism union’s magazine Journalisten has written several critical articles berating their lack of proper sourcing and referencing. Back in 2012, DR’s Detektor programme found that DKA had reported double the actual number of criminal Somalians in Denmark. And military news outlet Artilleriet recently condemned DKA for claiming that a seemingly random assault on two soldiers was connected to the political situation in the Middle East.

In late October, Culture Minister Marianne Jelved weighed into the debate and directly criticised DKA, before raising the possibility of obligating online media to join the Press Council.

“Media should be aware of their responsibility, and they aren’t if they are not following the common ethical codex,” Jelved told Journalisten. “DKA’s trustworthiness is undermined when you can’t expect a minimum amount of decency from them.”

The question then remains whether DKA can continue to call itself a news site. On Facebook, it states that its mission is to collect “the most important information about society” and analyse it before presenting it in easy-to-read articles. “You could call it news with an explanation,” it claims.

The evidence, however, suggests that it is a blog driven by an anti-immigration agenda. The Murmur respects DKA’s right to free speech, but does not agree that their website constitutes a trustworthy or fair news source.

The Murmur had a short correspondence with co-founder Ralf Pittelkow, but did not receive explicit permission to publish it. M

Since publishing this article in the November Issue of The Murmur, Ralf Pittelkow replied to the criticism levelled against Den Korte Avis in the newspaper Politiken. Read it here.


By Elias Thorsson

Managing editor. @Eliasthorsson

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