Would you like to know what people in other jobs think about working life today? Have you ever torn your hair out over trying to make lessons interesting and still make ends meet? Would you like to hear expert opinions on raising children now instead of Real Soon Now? Fire up your browser and point it at www.yle.fi/mikaeli/, and away you go.
Net Radio Mikaeli, The Finnish Broadcasting Corporations' and the Otava Folk High School´s joint digital web media could be the solution to your schedule problems. It's open for business day and night, even on the other side of the world - as long as you've a computer with Internet access. The programming is scheduled however you want, and you can go back to review anything at any time.
When your cranky two-year-old is all tired out, you can turn on your computer and look for consolation: What did the child-raising expert say about setting limits? Or when your teenager's daily anger has finished, you could acquaint yourself with the Laukaa model, which emphasises community responsibility.
In the same way, a whole village could get together to seek knowledge of the methods other small towns are using to combat population shrinkage. Information can also be found about the way to return a mental patient to work condition, the benefits of a forestry plan for private forest owners, and the current directions in teacher training.
There's almost seven hundred stories worth of information on the web pages, as text, pictures, sound, and occasionally even as video. New material appears once a week, and last week's stories are moved to the archives.
The net-borne Net Radio Mikaeli is in no way a traditional educational radio.
-We are an educational medium, of course. However, we don't see learning as just meaning tanking up on knowledge, but as everything which changes a person's way of thinking and causes movement or re-evaluations in the cranial cavity, emphasizes Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen, editor in chief of Net Radio Mikaeli.
- Our target audience isn't strictly delineated. The articles are written with adults in mind, but through them teenagers can get to peek at the world of adults. Issues are viewed on a national level, even though the selection of interviewees is weighted towards those from Eastern Finland.
Net Radio Mikaeli doesn't just educate its listeners, but also its authors.
- There is no journalism education in Etelä-Savo, or all of eastern Finland for that matter. Mikaeli has created its own education model - "The ABC of Net Radio". It specifically develops digital journalism know-how. The model has been exercised in cooperating educational institutions as a part of communications packages in all four eastern Finnish counties, and it works, says Kapiainen-Heiskanen.
- The recession in the last decade emptied Etelä-Savo of almost every freelance journalist working for national media. At the same time media houses weighted their activity more and more towards large cities and their surrounding areas. We are trying to do our part in reviving the area's supply of journalists who receive their assignments from outside the area. At the same time eastern Finland will receive much-needed visibility.
Other methods of revival besides providing training include offering a new national medium. Training is given in both journalism and new technology skills when necessary. Working in net media provides valuable hands-on experience in sound and image manipulation as well as the creation of streaming net video, if you've the ideas and enthusiasm. It's also possible to create alternate versions of one's own stories, for example traditional radio versions. Many freelancers also re-use their net radio stories into articles for news magazines, which brings extra income.
- When digital television started up in August 2001, Finland will certainly have enough television channels. We're tentatively training our assisting journalists in producing digital television programming, says Kapiainen-Heiskanen.
Matti Markkanen, a cameraman and editor for the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, has been running courses in digital video production. He's been a gift from the FBC to Mikaeli since the beginning of the year.
- I doubt that all the people taking that course will move into TV production, although hopefully some of them will acquire such professional skills and enthusiasm that the media will be competing for their abilities, ponders Kapiainen-Heiskanen. When digital television started, it will be possible to produce TV programming anywhere in Finland. There will be buyers and traders wandering all around the country. They need to be convinced of our know-how. Assistants need to have presentable portfolios of their abilities.
What about television broadcasts on the Internet, say on Net Radio Mikaeli's pages? Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen isn't very hopeful, due to technical difficulties.
- It's doubtful that the countryside will be wired for efficiently viewing net videos in the furthest corners any time soon. The sluggishness of the connections angers the Editor In Chief of the net media greatly.
- This isn't democracy, it's the tyranny of operators. The talk of an egalitarian Finnish information society seems to be complete hogwash. The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities as well as the people living in the countryside are complaining that service providers refuse to provide fast connections for the countryside, even if customers would be willing to pay for them. How much digital television will ease this problem remains to be seen.
- Almost all of our freelancers have good basic education. We try to make sure they all explore their potential for becoming entrepreneurs in the communications industry, Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen describes Net Radio Mikaeli's plan for the future.
- If necessary, we can start up a commercial program production company on very short notice. Cooperation with the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation will also probably become even tighter.
Net Radio Mikaeli gained its first experience of direct Internet broadcasting in March 2001, when it worked together with the Mikkeli Polytechnic's Information and Media Technology on the worldwide dissemination of a seminar on ringed seals. Kapiainen-Heiskanen followed the seminar from Lissabon.
It's doubtful there'll be journalist training in eastern Finland any time soon. Instead, Otavan Opisto is starting basic audiovisual communications training the coming fall.
- The plans for cooperative work with the universities of Tampere and Joensuu are also fascinating. In time, they may even lead to an academic education program in digital media starting in Etelä-Savo.
Editor In Chief Kapiainen-Heiskanen describes Nettiradio Mikaeli as a product development unit, which prepares content creators for the future of media. People are guided towards proficiency in several mediums. This "reusing" is the spirit of a time striving for economic efficiency.
- We spend some time inspecting the abilities of each person. Our journalists don't need to have any particular technical skills. In our first meeting, they often mention that they hate technology. My questions then are "Do you like taking pictures? What have you written so far? What kind of subjects would you like to cover?" These kind of basic skills suffice.
- We also offer several internship positions a year. Unfortunately the structure of our funding doesn't allow for very many normal employment relationships. It's humiliating for young interns to have to emphasize that they don't need to be paid when first asking for work. They then negotiate their livelihood with Social Services.
- This is probably typical these days. One would tend to imagine, though, that bureaucrats could develop cooperation between different sections of government, so that young interns could be recognized as members of the work community and receive compensation for their work.
Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen has been a part of Nettiradio Mikaeli since the beginning, in the spring of 1998. What has work in the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation's and Otavan Opisto's shared local product development unit been like?
- Mikaeli combines media, internationality, project work and creative writing in a way that suits me. I can't claim to be a pedagogue, but working with freelancers and interns has been fun, she says.
- Cross-county skiing fascinates me. This is descriptive of my personality: I want to find my own path.
Additional Information: Editor In Chief Päivi Kapiainen-Heiskanen,
tel + 358 15 - 4157 721, fax +358 15 4157 757
Nettiradio Mikaeli, nettiradiomikaeli.internetix.fi/mikaeli/
Interviews by Tuula Huoviala. Translations by Ville Häkkinen.
© Nettiradio Mikaeli 2001