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Helsingin Sanomat closes down International Edition

After 13 years serving a worldwide and Finland-based audience with news in English translated from Finland’s biggest newspaper, the Helsingin Sanomat International Edition was updated for the last time on Monday.

Hs.fi-verkkosivuston etusivu.
Helsingin Sanomat's website will host no English language news in the near future. Image: hs.fi / Yle Uutisgrafiikka

The website, run by a hard-working group of editors since 1999, has been a valuable source of news for Finland’s growing international community.

It drew on the best of Finland’s biggest newspaper to provide everything from long-form examinations of the country’s politics and culture to the inside track on municipal decision-making around big infrastructure projects.

The service has apparently become a casualty of Helsingin Sanomat’s decision to introduce a so-called ’porous paywall’ for their Finnish language online offering.

"There are some technical reasons . Our publishing system is changing, of course we are taking a paywall into use in November and all these things added up so that we decided to close it down for the moment," said Managing Editor Kimmo Pietinen.

Foreigners in Finland disappointed

After the shutdown was announced, more than a hundred people contacted the editor to express their thanks for the service. Some were a little irate that a previously free service had been taken away from them.

Foreigners in Finland expressed their disappointment on social media. @hugovk tweeted about feeling 'sad to see HSInt Ed go, it really helped me feel part of this city and country'. @ChristianNorocel added that the International Edition 'provided a minimum insight into Finnish society & complemented Yle News. Is it up to blogosphere now?!'.

The International Edition started life as Finland took over the European Union's rotating presidency for the first time. With the closure coming just after the country had lost out to Australia and Luxembourg in the race for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, researcher Toby Archer (@TobyinHelsinki) saw the decision as another blow for Finland’s efforts to put across its message in the wider world.

He wrote that it was a 'big loss for Finnish public diplomacy', asking Finland's Minister for Europe and International Trade Alexander Stubb if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs might step in.

Comeback possible

Managing Editor Pietinen acknowledged the need to do something, after the current upheaval in the newspaper’s offering has settled down slightly.

"We don’t have any concrete plans as to what we’ll do, but of course we realise that for our reputation and for the international audience, we would like to have something in English anyway," explained Pietinen.

So there may be light at the end of the tunnel for those suffering from International Edition withdrawal symptoms.

Those bemoaning its demise may soon be able to read it again, then—just so long as they are willing to pay. If and when the service does make a comeback, Pietinen says that it will probably be behind a paywall, like the rest of the newspaper from the start of November.

Until then, readers will have to make do with the International Edition's extensive archives.

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