2011: The stories behind the stories

This was the year that was. Join us as we take a look inside some of the stories that landed on our front page over the past 12 months

This past year was an active one both nationally and around the world, and it was a good time to be in the news business. Instead of a traditional replay of the major stories of the year, this year The Copenhagen Post new team took a look back at some of 2011’s most memorable moments to give our readers a glimpse into the weekly chaos of producing a newspaper with a small but dedicated team.

We hope you've enjoyed reading the news as much as we've enjoyed bringing it to you, and we're looking forward to continuing to serve our community in 2012.

Royal twins kick off eventful year (Issue 1402, January 14 – 20) As the father of twins, I found myself taking more than just a dispassionate interest in the births of Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine on January 8. (See also: Vincent and Josephine: the newest Danish royals) As it turns out, their arrival was an omen that 2011 was going to be so eventful that it needed two Baby New Years. The snowy winter meant the year got off to a sloppy start and the recession made a mess of the economy all year long. A torrential downpour in July left the city wading through muck, while plans to reinstate border controls soiled relations with our neighbours throughout the summer. The autumn election was brief, but that just made the mudslinging more intense. The congestion charge, meanwhile, continues to muddy the political waters. Still, there was plenty to smile at in 2011: popular global uprisings, their local offshoots and the election of a progressive government had many people looking forward to the future. Football fans are looking forward to seeing Denmark at Euro2012, while the popularity of Movember, on the other hand, left many a woman just looking forward to December. Kevin McGwin

Midlife crisis averted (Issue 1408, Feb 25 – March 3) To say that 2011 was a big year for Christiania would be an understatement. In early March, the fate of Copenhagen’s fabled commune was very much in the balance. The Supreme Court had just ruled that the state – and not Christiania’s nearly 900 residents – had the legal right to the area. Residents were given a choice: either accept the government’s ‘normalisation’ terms or purchase the property themselves. After temporarily shutting themselves in to debate their future, Christianites decided in early May to accept the state’s offer to buy the land. Through the sale of their innovative ‘Christiania Shares’, they’ve already hauled in 6 million kroner in public support. With the first 43 million kroner payment – of the total 76.2m purchase deal – due in April 2012, Christiania’s troubles may not yet be totally behind it, but by the time the freetown held a jubilant celebration for its 40th birthday in September, things were looking much brighter than they had at the beginning of the year. Justin Cremer

Running afoul of UN convention (Issue 1409, March 4 – 10) I had just joined The Copenhagen Post when the Immigration Ministry’s ‘stateless scandal’ began to burble forth into the headlines. As a relative newcomer to Denmark – and a light-skinned, affluent one at that – I had never experienced anything other than upright treatment from the state authorities. The ‘stateless scandal’ was my wake-up call to the sordid flipside to Denmark’s vaunted equal rights. At first the scandal appeared to concern a cantankerous immigration minister, Birthe Rønn Hornbech (V), who took it upon herself to defy UN convention and deny hundreds of Danish-born children of stateless refugees their internationally recognised right to Danish citizenship. However, the more facts that came to light, the clearer it became that the unfair and unlawful practice was tolerated, if not encouraged, by the Venstre-led government and its ally, Dansk Folkeparti. It was also then that I first took notice of Enhedslisten’s very precocious political spokesperson, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen, who was spearheading the opposition’s inquiry with well-informed and exceedingly well-formulated challenges to the government’s old guard. Jennifer Buley

Pindprick: New minister comes out swinging (Issue 1411, March 18 – 24) The story had absolutely mushroom-clouded. Søren Pind, the immigration minister, had been quoted as saying that integrating wasn’t enough for immigrants; no, they needed to assimilate. (See also our interview with Søren Pind) Our readers were outraged – how dare he! With key personnel away for a week, I was overseeing production of the front page, and a picture of his mug wasn’t going to cut it. I needed a simple but effective image that would sum up the frustration and anger being vented at the minister – was this the sort of claim that might make foreigners rethink living here? I slept on it and was taken back to the British general election of 1992. On that day, the country’s best-read newspaper published the face of election favourite Neil Kinnock (the PM’s father-in-law) in a light-bulb with the headline: “Will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.” After swapping the light-bulb for a balloon, the concept was in place, and with the aid of a risqué headline (if you’re going to write ‘Last one out, don’t forget the Pindprick’, you better make sure the double meaning’s strong), the page was complete. Ben Hamilton

King Kong Gaddafi (Issue 1412, March 25 – 31) If somebody enters the office looking like an extra from the ‘Mad Max’ films, they’re invariably there to see me. I’ve always worked under the principle that you can’t be too picky – the weird and the wonderful very often inhabit the same world, and it’s a magic moment when something vindicates the perseverance. One such occasion was our Gadaffi/King Kong cover. The name Joe Maerzke might be familiar to some of you as the man who went undercover in Christiania’s sauna (we apologise to a certain reader who said it put him off his breakfast), and over the last year he has provided us with hundreds of unused stories – most of them with the promise that they’re “front page”. So maybe it was just fate that he happened to be in the office when we were discussing our Danish involvement in Libya cover. Justin had a concept, and Joe knew an artist (thanks Heiko!): he could do it no problem – just like that, it happened. Nine months later, the Libyan dictator was gone but our King Kong homage lives on, adorning our office wall. Ben Hamilton

Bad neighbours (Issue 1424, June 17 – 23) Months before the downfall of the euro, the big story was the downfall of the Schengen Agreement. It was summer 2011 and little Denmark (acting even smaller than its size) was at the root of the controversy. The Venstre-Konservative (VK) government and the Dansk Folkeparti (DF) colluded to roll back the Schengen Agreement and erect ‘permanent border controls’ to slow cross-border traffic, record cars on video, increase random checks for contraband, and crack down on “eastern European criminal gangs”. Germans balked at the un-European gesture and cancelled summer holidays at Danish beach towns, while DF lobbed WWII-related insults at German politicians. Business leaders bemoaned lost revenue and the European Commission called it illegal. Meanwhile commentators as far afield as New York noted that Denmark – and the EU – had apparently been hijacked by a cynical right-wing initiative. However, one foreign group praised the plan: France’s racist party Front National. The September election that ousted VK and DF from power put an end to Denmark’s border control circus. Now we can all worry about the euro. Jennifer Buley

Mad skills (Issue 1427, July 8 – 14) A friend clued me in to some very cool neighbourhood renewal projects in the old working-class Nordvest area. At the heart of the renaissance is a gorgeous new library and community centre called Biblioteket, designed around the skeleton of an old soap factory. And the heart of Biblioteket is Café Glad, a cosy, Nordic gourmet café that is both a cooking school and a workplace for an awesome team of disabled and non-disabled chefs and waiters. Writing this feature reminded me of something, I believe, Denmark excels at: namely, providing each of us (no matter what our abilities or background) with opportunities for self-development, a high quality of life, self-respect, community involvement, and some hedonistic pleasure to boot. Interviewing the talented and high-energy people working on these community projects in Nordvest convinced me that it will be the neighbourhood to watch over the next few years. Jennifer Buley

Moving to the city (Issue 1429, July 22 – 28) A hub for design and fashion, an enviable cycling infrastructure, and the setting of ‘The Killing’, Copenhagen’s profile in the international media is rising, making the city an increasingly attractive place to live – not only to foreigners but also to Danes stuck in the sticks. In this issue I spoke to young Danes who had moved to Copenhagen in pursuit of adventure, opportunity and acceptance. Rural flight is not new, but the story proved a good opportunity to illustrate how Denmark is more than just Copenhagen, and that while the city seems to be on the cutting edge, life outside the capital still moves at a gentler pace. With 19 people a day moving to Copenhagen, the division between rural and urban Denmark is getting ever more pronounced, placing enormous pressure on the city’s infrastructure while also calling into question what the future of ‘udkantsdanmark’ holds. Peter Stanners

A new era (Issue 1433, August 19 – 25) Since joining The Copenhagen Post in October 2010, I had harboured a not-so-secret desire to change the look of the paper. I felt the old design – which hadn’t changed much since the paper’s first issue in February 1998 – was in desperate need of refreshment. After working on the new design in the background for a few months, it felt great to come out with the first issue of the redesigned look. Featuring larger, bolder images and a more airy and less boxy design, I feel like the new format provides the perfect vehicle for our increased focus on in-depth, original reporting and opinion. Readers’ feedback to the redesign was largely positive, with several thanking us for no longer needing a magnifying glass to read the InOut section. Now, with our newly-revamped website, The Copenhagen Post is becoming the kind of paper we’ve always wanted it to be. Justin Cremer

Racing to success (Issue 1437, August 16 – 22) When I had the opportunity to do the layout of the paper while Justin was away on paternity leave, it was a big task  but I felt up to the challenge. Although I had only been at The Copenhagen Post since May, I was thrown into it. By the time I did the second issue on my own, I was able to get the flow down and minimise the mistakes. This cover photo from the Road World Cycling Championships – the largest sporting event Denmark has ever seen – brings to mind the same rush of speed I felt in that period. Like the race itself, which was a resounding success for the city but created headaches for commuters, my time at the helm was a personal victory, albeit with some bumps in the road. As a graphic designer you always strive for perfection, but sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got, and luckily I have an amazing team of co-workers who all contributed to me doing my best. Aviaja Bebe Nielsen

All eyes on Helle (Issue 1438, September 23 – 29) Covering the election was an exciting time for us. Staying on top of all the latest developments and trying to explain a political system with nine major parties – several of whom have similar and seemingly misleading names – was at times difficult, but I think we did a good job. For me, the highlight was on election night, when I happened to be at a party near the home of the leader of Socialdemokraterne, Helle Thorning-Schmidt. As the results came in, it was clear she was going to be Denmark’s first female prime minister, so we ran down to her home to join a couple of hundred rose-bearing supporters. After a few hours in the cold, she eventually appeared and spoke briefly before being driven off to her victory party. It was a special experience, not only because of the electric feeling outside her home, but also because it made me realise how accessible and low-key Danish politicians can be. Peter Stanners

Upcoming juggling act (Issue 1450, December 16 – 22) Just as 2011 opened on a symbolic note of hope for the year to come, we find ourselves closing the year looking forward to a better 2012, yet deeply uncertain about where we’ll find ourselves next December. In Europe, much of that uncertainty is due to the problems facing the euro. With Denmark at the head of the EU for the coming six months, it will be exciting to watch from the front row – and possibly even from behind the scenes – as the union fights its way through one of its darkest hours. While the EU tends not to grab headlines in the Danish media, one possible positive outcome of the crisis and the media’s intense coverage of the presidency could be to encourage people to take a greater interest in what happens in Brussels. For better or worse, decisions made there have a profound impact on domestic politics, and helping voters understand the complexities of the EU would be in the country’s best interest. Kevin McGwin

Above, this story as it appeared in print. Click on the image to read the full online version of The Copenhagen Post