Bjerg, who heads an award-winning digital team at Denmark’s TV 2, has been investigating how developers and journalists can better collaborate.
“I noticed her immediately, but she probably best remembers me for sitting on a paper cup of coffee,” says Magnus Bjerg of his first encounter with Christina Andreasen, at a workshop for the Danish Online News Association. Despite the coffee mishap, the two digital journalists hit it off and soon began dating. Three years later, they are a Danish journalism power couple: Andreasen, a digital editor at the Danish paper Berlingske, is a Nieman Fellow at Harvard; Bjerg is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.
“We never dreamed that it could be a possibility for us both to get a fellowship at the same time,” he says. “I love that we get the opportunity to do this together.”
For Bjerg, the road to Cambridge began in Allerød, Denmark, the mid-sized town outside of Copenhagen where he grew up. Although he admired scientists and engineers, his combined hunger for learning and love of storytelling drew him to journalism. After graduating from the Danish School of Journalism in 2010, he took a job as a radio reporter for a station called DR P4 Bornholm on the island of Bornholm, a Baltic Sea paradise of rocky cliffs, green fields, and timber framed houses. Later, he was hired by the tabloid Ekstra Bladet, Denmark’s most viewed news site. There, he discovered how journalists can use programming and interactive experiences to add perspective to a story that can’t be captured with words alone.
For the past six years Bjerg has been doing digital journalism for TV 2, Denmark’s largest news broadcaster. There he started an editorial development team that is now made up of developers, graphic designers, and journalists. Constantly innovating, the team won five digital awards in 2017, including honors from the Society for News Design Scandinavia and the Association of Danish Media.
“I like to think of [the team] as a producing innovation lab,” Bjerg said. “It’s the most fun, creative and always-evolving place to be in Danish news.”
Over the course of his fellowship at MIT, Bjerg has been investigating how developers and journalists can better collaborate. He acknowledges an inherent tension between the two camps: It’s the nature of the news industry to produce content quickly, in order to keep up with the blistering pace of current events, while the process of creating interactives and graphics tends to be slower. Bjerg hopes to return to TV 2 with a set of guidelines to facilitate this interaction.
“I am a really strong believer that when we cross-pollinate our different specialties, we can do much more than we can do apart,” he said. ”Digital journalism used to be an image and some text, but there is so much more now, and we have to keep experimenting to stay ahead and evolve.”
This is the eighth in a series of profiles of the 2018-19 Knight Science Journalism fellows, written by students in MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing.