It took a few months and several meetings of the Norwegian Press Complaints Commission, but all of the many complaints about press coverage of the July 22nd massacre have now been addressed. The council found that Dagbladet had not breached the journalistic code of ethics with its frequent coverage of Anders Behring Breivik on its front page, as the universal news value of the story merited that frequency. Likewise, the council decided that Verdens Gang did not breach the code by printing photographs of Breivik’s reenactment of his crimes, noting that the paper showed sensitivity to survivors by placing the most disturbing photos on its inside pages, rather than its front cover. The newspapers that printed the photograph of the complainant’s wife who was killed in the Oslo city bombing, however, were found to have shown a lack of restraint. At the moment that the editors printed the photograph, they did not know whether or not the woman’s family was aware of her death (even though, as it turned out, they were), and so that was a breach of Norway’s code for ethical journalism.
As Breivik’s trial began last week, journalists in Norway must have had these and other similar complaints in mind as they determined how to cover the largest court case in the country’s peacetime history with, both thoroughly and compassionately. One daily tabloid, taking its cue from the U.K.’s Guardian, found a simple but ingenious solution to the problem of over-saturation of the painful story. Showing sensitivity to the survivors of the July 22nd attacks—as well as to any number of traumatized Norwegians who feel they have seen enough of Breivik’s face—Dagbladet was the first to introduce a button offering readers a “Breivik-free” version of the daily news.
Correction (04/25/12): This story initially reported that the Norwegian-language name for the Norwegian Press Complaints Commission is Norsk Presseforbund. In fact, the organization is called Pressens Faglige Utvalg. The relevant sentence has been corrected. CJR regrets the error.