New editor-in-chief dropped from newspaper, allegedly over lesbian relationship
Alma Media CEO says failure to disclose partner’s political activities was reason for move
The appointment of journalist Johanna Korhonen as editor-in-chief of the Rovaniemi-based newspaper Lapin Kansa has been cancelled before Korhonen began her work.
Korhonen, who left her previous job as editor-in-chief of Journalisti, the newspaper of the Finnish Union of Journalists, was named to the Lapin Kansa post at the beginning of September, and she was to have started at the newspaper in mid-December.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, Johanna Korhonen said that the reason for the cancellation of her appointment was the revelation that she is living in a registered civil union with another woman. Korhonen says that she was called in to a discussion, in which Kai Telanne, CEO of the media group Alma Media, and others attending the meeting had pressured Korhonen to withdraw voluntarily.
“When I asked, Telänne answered that knowledge of the gender of my spouse would have been an impediment to my being named editor-in-chief of Lapin Kansa. He also feels that ‘concealing’ the matter was a reason for cancelling the appointment. In his view it is a ‘completely impossible idea’ that I could work in a leading position in Alma Media, as an editor-in-chief in Rovaniemi”, Korhonen writes in her press release.
Korhonen says that Alma Media wanted Korhonen to withdraw from the post in silence, and would not make the reason for the move public, even offering her payment of EUR 100,000 to assure her silence.
A statement issued by Alma Media says that the board of the company decided to cancel the contract of Johanna Korhonen because of a “lack of trust”.
CEO Kai Telanne denies that the move had anything to do with her having a woman as a spouse. “Korhonen is talking nonsense. A lack of trust has emerged. That’s it”, Telanne says.
“Alma Media does not discriminate. We have any number of people living in all kinds of relationships. Johanna Korhonen knows it herself.”
Telanne does not specify the reason for the lack of trust. He admits, however, that the candidacy of her partner in municipal politics.
Later Telanne said in an interview on a news broadcast on the commercial television network MTV3 that Korhonen was dropped because she had not been honest in her job interview about the political activism of her partner.
“It is very important for us that the next of kin of our editor-in-chief, I am talking about spouses now, are neutral. The editors-in-chief of provincial newspapers are expected to be absolutely unbiased and neutral. Korhonen was asked about this, and she told us that neither she nor her spouse were involved in politics. I found out on Monday morning that her spouse is a candidate in the municipal elections in Espoo”, Telanne said.
In fact, Korhonen’s partner is a candidate in Vantaa, not Espoo.
In an additional press release Alma Media said that “the basis of the lack of trust is Korhonen’s mendaciousness in her job interview. After the contract was reached, it has come out that Korhonen had repeatedly told lies during the recruitment process."
“I am astounded that something like this can happen in Finland in the year 2008", Johanna Korhonen says.
She says that Alma Media had offered a severance contract worth about EUR 100,000. Korhonen says that it would probably have included a requirement that she not disclose information about the circumstances.
It came out later on Wednesday that the spouse of the editor in chief of another Alma Media newspaper is also involved in municipal politics, and unlike Korhonen’s partner, the wife of Heikki Lääkkölä, editor-in-chief of the Kemi-based Pohjolan Sanomat, is an active participant in the political life of the home town of the newspaper.
Lääkkölä’s wife, Päivi Koskenranta, served on the Kemi City Council from 2000 to 2004, and still represents the Centre Party on the city’s technical committee, and is on the board of the local municipal organisation of the Centre Party.
Lääkkölä has has been the editor-in-chief of Pohjolan Sanomat since 1996.
Koskenranta says that her political career has never been a problem for her husband.
“I only heard on the news that this would have been raised as the reason [for Johanna Korhonen’s dismissal]. I don’t see why this should even be told to an employer.”
Koskenranta feels that the events are unfortunate from Alma Media’s point of view.
Alma Media CEO Kai Telanne says that he had not been aware of the political activities of the wife of the editor of Pohjolan Sanomat. However, he says that it has no bearing on Korhonen case.
“The issue is that she lied in her job interview”, Telanne reiterates.