Meet the Brain Trust: Five questions for Helje Soldberg


Helje Soldberg began working at VG, Norway’s largest daily, in 1994 as a political reporter, before holding positions such as Editorial Department Manager, Sub Manager, Managing Editor and Executive Managing Editor. Now, Soldberg is the Acting Editor/Managing Director of VGTV and has received such recognition for her work as the SKUP Award for Investigative Journalism in 1995 and the Norwegian Grand Prize for Journalism in 1996. In addition to her work on the board of the Norwegian Media Businesses’ Association and as a member of the Oslo Editor Association, Soldberg is also an active member of WAN-IFRA’s Media Freedom Brain Trust. WAN-IFRA caught up with Soldberg to learn more about her participation in this important program.

By Colette Davidson

How did you first get involved with the Brain Trust?

As a mentor in the Media Professional Program, I became part of the Brain Trust.

I was asked to join the Brain Trust at the Norwegian Media Businesses’ Association where I am also on the board of this group. When I was asked to join, I was just delighted. I had heard of it through the WAN-IFRA newsletter.

Can you explain your involvement thus far?

For the last two years, my colleague Hildegunn Soldal from Aller Media and I have been mentors for media executives in Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar. The aim is to support them to address editorial and commercial challenges, and to strengthen their media organizations overall. We work with them in their home countries, as well as engaging with them by Skype or email during the intervening months.

What has been your favorite part of working with the Brain Trust?

We have gotten to know amazing and gifted media managers. It’s hugely impressive what they achieve during such challenging times; in terms of resources, technology, access to information and press freedom-issues. We are grateful to be a part of the program, and look forward to its continuation.

What is the most surprising thing you have learned from your travels as a Brain Trust member?

First, I think the Brain Trust is hugely important. There are many ways to succeed as a media house – many paths to success. It’s so important for media executives to find their own way. We have learned so much from all of the participants, especially about the diversity among the media houses and the countries. On a more personal note, a pleasant surprise was the very warm and generous welcome we received when we came back the second year. That and the feedback from the participants are much appreciated.

Why do you think the Brain Trust is important to the media industry?

I think the sharing experience is really important and if I can contribute to that, I am grateful. I have learned so much from the media executives inside and outside of Norway from sharing experiences. Even though some of our challenges are different, many are the same. For example, the digital transformation and revolution. In order to cope with it, we have many of the same challenges. What’s very important is to dare to invest in the future and to think long term when it comes to journalism. In addition, for media managers all over the world, it’s increasingly important to be open and externally oriented. We live in a world where no single organization has all the answers. To collaborate and work with colleagues from other places, to exchange ideas and experiences, is inspiring and important for all of us.

WAN-IFRA’s Media Freedom Brain Trust is an informal association of media executives drawn from our membership community who have an active interest in supporting their peers in emerging and post-conflict markets. Members of the Brain Trust contribute their time and expertise to WAN-IFRA’s Media Freedom programmes as trainers, mentors or advisors. 

WAN-IFRA Media Freedom Brain Trust Supporting Growing Activities in 2016

11 Brain Trust members shared their time and expertise with more than 70 media partners in 2016.

WAN-IFRA’s Media Freedom Brain Trust served as trainers, mentors and facilitators in two major WAN-IFRA programmes.

Brain Trust members supported the “Media Freedom and Democracy Programme”, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Helje Solberg (CEO, VGT), Bernt Olufsen (Former Editor-in- Chief of VG and former Editor of Schibsted Media Group), Rolf Dyrnes Svendsen (Editor of Adresseavisen and Director at the Polaris Media Lab, Norway), and Hildegunn Soldal (Digital Editor, Dagbladet), all of Norway served as mentors, travelling onsite to Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam for in-house mentoring.

WAN-IFRA Brain Trust contributors to workshops included: Greg Barber, Director Digital News Products, The Washington Post, Michael Cooke, Editor-in- Chief, Toronto Star, and, Kirk MacDonald, Chief Revenue Officer, Toronto Star. Each contributed to a week-long strategic workshop series held in Yangon, Myanmar in February 2016.

Brain Trust members also contributed to WAN-IFRA’s “Strengthening Media and Society Programme”, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, including Soren Svendsen, Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer, JP/Politikens Hus A/S (MENA regional workshop in Amman), Julie Kennedy, Head of User Experience, DMG Group (Latin America regional workshop in Cartagena), Greg Barber, Director of Digital News Projects, Washington Post (Latin America regional workshop in Cartagena), Bryan Hooley, VP, Business Development, APAC for Newscycle Solutions (Asia regional workshop in Kuala Lumpur) and Claus Hovge Andersen, Chief Operating Officer at Nordjyske Medier (Africa regional workshop in Grahamstown).

WAN-IFRA’s Media Freedom Brain Trust is an informal association of media executives drawn from our membership community who have an active interest in supporting their peers in emerging and post-conflict markets. Members of the Brain Trust contribute their time and expertise to WAN-IFRA’s Media Freedom programmes as trainers, mentors or advisors.

Brain Trust heads to Yangon for MPP 2015-2016

By Colette Davidson

 When WAN-IFRA set up the Brain Trust in 2012, it did so with the intention of tapping into the wealth knowledge found within it global membership base to support its media development programs. The recent Media Professionals Program event in Myanmar was an occasion for education and exchange between Brain Trust Members and the 20 senior executives from Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam who gathered onsite for a week of training. 

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Norwegian Brain Trust Members Travel to Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam

Norwegian media executives Helje Solberg, CEO of VGTV, and Hildegunn Soldal, Digital Editor of Dagbladet, conducted a week-long visit as part of WAN-IFRA’s Media Professionals Programme: South East Asia in February 2015.

The executives have committed to the MPP programme as mentors, delivering strategic workshops on digital trends and operations as well as newsroom management and leadership to senior journalists, editors and commercial executives from news media drawn from Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. While onsite in each country, Solberg and Soldal visited the newsrooms of participating media in addition to delivering workshops to participants. Solberg will travel to Bangkok Thailand in April 2015 to deliver a final workshop to programme participants, while also taking part in WAN-IFRA’s Publish Asia conference, which runs from 28-30 April .

Media Professionals Programme: SEA is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The programme has been running since 2012 in Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, delivering skills development in editorial and business strategy to more than 40 media professionals from 20 media.

Brain Trust Members Lead WAN-IFRA Webinars

Gunnar Springfeldt
Gunnar Springfeldt

Brain Trust members Rick Duham, Jorge Luis Sierra, Gunnar Springfeldt, and Assem el Bassal contributed to the Emerging Markets Webinar Programme by leading online training sessions for past and current beneficiaries of WAN-IFRA’s media development programmes.

Dunham addressed how journalists can improve their business reporting using multimedia; Sierra lectured on mobile and digital security for journalists and bloggers; Springfeldt looked at the future face of mobile and digital advertising; and el Bassal discussed how to better target audiences on multiple devices.

Beth Oakes Trains WIN Coaches

Beth Oakes

Brain Trust Member Beth Oakes, a key contributor to the Women in News programme since its launch in 2010, served as a programme advisor for the new wave of coaches recruited for Women in News Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa throughout the spring of 2014, as part of the ‘training of the trainers’ process. Oakes continues to support the Women in News programme as an ad hoc advisor on all programmatic areas relating to coaching.

Three Brain Trust Members Contributed to Executive Training

Kirk MacDonald
Kirk MacDonald

Brain Trust members Michael Cooke, Patrick Keaney and Kirk MacDonald met with participants of the WAN-IFRA Executive Twinning Programme during the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Turin, Italy in June. Cooke, Keaney and MacDonald conducted on-the-spot clinics with senior executives from Botswana, Egypt, Myanmar, Malawi, Uganda, and Zambia to discuss topics such as boosting Sunday circulation, SEO and revenue generating strategies for digital properties, print supply issues, and more.

Suzanne Moll serving as WIN virtual mentor

Suzanne Moll

Suzanne Moll will serve as a virtual mentor for WAN-IFRA’s pioneering Women in News (WIN) programme. Suzanne joined the WIN programme when it first launched in 2010, providing consultation, training, and coaching to women media professionals in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. She will continue to assist media women to advance in their careers through virtual mentorship.