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Another story about the weekly newspaper Orientering

OUR STORY / weekly newspaper Orientering is often portrayed as the work of three men. It is overlooking a large number of contributors – many of them women. Torild Skar himself wrote around 400 articles over the course of seventeen years. Read here her story about Orientering.


weekly newspaper Orientering has subsequently been presented in a narrowly elite and man-worshipping way that gives a completely wrong image of the company. Important features of the business are neglected, and an incorrect picture is conveyed of the reasons why the newspaper managed to be published for so long. Avisa is now primarily described as the work of three men. And there is no doubt that Sigurd Evensmo, Finn Gustavsen, and Kjell Cordtsen played key roles. Without them, it would not have become a strange newspaper. But it would not have become a strange newspaper either if the job had rested exclusively on them.

Political Ice Age

Orientering was created in 1952-53, during the worst period of political alignment we know from Norway in peacetime. When the Cold War set in after the communist takeover of Eastern Europe, the Labor Party government entered into a military alliance with the stronghold of capitalism, the United States. The political debate was closed and the clap-hunting for "k-sympathizers" (communist sympathizers) hit the entire left.

Orientering would chop the ice in order for the opposition to come to the fore. The newspaper fought for relaxation, disarmament and peace, against block politics and nuclear weapons. It adopted a "third position" between East and West and advocated for democratic socialism as opposed to capitalism and Stalinism. Even though OrienteringThe s people were members of the Norwegian Workers' Party, the party leadership branded the opinions as grossly heretical and did what it could to gag the newspaper.

It required not only skill, but also steadfastness and courage to stand up and speak the country's dominant party against. To begin with was Orientering only a small ink that came every fortnight, but it survived, year after year, and grew. It became a weekly newspaper and the number of pages increased from 8 to 28. When the newspaper went over to Ny Tid in 1975, it had a circulation of 17 – 20.000. It is a feat that is difficult for later generations to understand.

When it could go, it was because Evensmo, Gustavsen and Cordtsen did a job far out of the ordinary. But it was also because they were not alone. It was Orienteringoblique or more precisely: the circles that prevented the newspaper from being broken by a strong and authoritarian state-carrying party.

Persistent cooperatives

Press history has been a very unusual company to publish a political newspaper in regular uninterrupted operation for more than twenty years, based largely on duration. Especially in the 1950s, the economic situation was constantly critical. No fees were paid to contributors or proper salaries to employees and practical tasks were solved with voluntary free efforts.

The circle of co-operatives laid the foundation for the newspaper's operation. They started by giving each one a five-fold app and then they continued to give, of their time and money, to back up the editorial staff, and they mobilized support from others. To begin with, they were about 150, scattered throughout the country. Gradually the figure increased to over a thousand. It was not uncommon for a hundred people to attend the General Assembly, sometimes several, and many took a thirst for board meetings to keep the newspaper going. In addition, they assisted with administration and practical work: accounting and cataloging, packaging, pasting and addressing, distribution and street sales.

Peder Ødegaard, for example, made a tireless effort. As chairman of the Norsk Treindustri-arbeiderforbund, he was the only non-communist in a top position in the trade union movement who dared to stand up against NATO policy from the outset. After a hard fight, he was also thrown out as federation chairman in 1954, after 44 years of membership in the Norwegian Workers' Party. Peder supported Orientering from the beginning, joined the editorial board and board. For a time he was chairman. He sat on the board and constantly took a thorn in the newspaper expedition until 1972, when he died, aged 79.

Of the younger guard, rationalization expert Ola Bonnevie became a key person. He participated in illegal labor during the war and was sent to Sachsenhausen in 1943, only 17 years old. He returned in 1945 as a friend of peace and socialist and became involved Orientering. Here he was on the board, was chairman of the board for several years, business manager, member of the editorial committee and active writer. Inspired by his mother, women's advocate Margarete Bonnevie, he helped to draw women into the work.

And these were just two of the many supporters. Without the co-owners 'extensive and long-standing efforts, the editors' well-formulated opinions would not have been possible.

Idealistic writers

The next circle were those who wrote for free in the newspaper. Over the years they amounted to many hundreds. Some just posted a single post, while others wrote for years, most of them under full name, but some anonymously. The organization of the editorial staff changed, but most often there was an editorial committee of volunteers in addition to the permanent staff. The committee meetings were open, and interested parties could attend even if they were not formally appointed. This was true of at least some students. It was a complex bunch in age and background and the discussions were lively. The harsh political climate of the 1950s and 60s created a strong unity among Orienteringpeople at the same time as there could be considerable internal disagreement and struggle. The tone was at times rather harsh and the environmental construction consisted mostly of some scattered visits to Stortorvets Gjestgiveri for chicken thighs and beer after the meeting was over. Fortunately, the essence of the newspaper had a common socialist view that carried through the differences of opinion.

The innermost circle was the staff staff, who were at a minimum, at least a handful. Orientering was never dominated by any individual, but by a group of editors and editorial secretaries who changed over time. As the economy improved, with greater subscriber numbers and access to government advertisements, the fixed editorial board and the role of the editorial committee increased.

The first editor was the author Sigurd Evensmo with Finn Gustavsen as editorial secretary. Evensmo stood as a pillar throughout the life of the newspaper, with its long experience, humanity and political integrity. He wore a sparkling pen and wrote wise reflections that were appreciated outside the circle as well. Gustavsen supplemented with a practical grip on newspaper production, an uncompromising political flair and a quick and offensive style. He did Orientering to a newspaper on the chopping block. The first editorial committee consisted of university scholar Vilhelm Aubert, director of health Karl Evang, member of parliament Jakob Friis and business manager Peder Ødegaard. In addition, the newspaper associated professionals and cultural workers from a wide spectrum of different subject areas as writers. The newspaper was criticized for being too intellectual. But it was, after all, about writing, and intellectuals were not as vulnerable to reprisals from the Labor Party leadership as workers on the floor.


Everyone who ran the newspaper was a member of the Norwegian Workers' Party or was close to the party. Party veterans such as Christopher Hornsrud, the party's first prime minister in 1928, and Olav Oksvik, Olav Meisdalshagen and Kaare Fostervoll, all former ministers in the Labor Party government, sympathized with Orientering, and younger MPs wrote. The party leadership responded with what Evensmo called "silent killing" – silent killing. Whatever the newspaper wrote, it was kept secret in the workers' press – until 1960 when it was central Orienterings employees were excluded by the party in addition to the socialist students who were excluded the year before. Then there was uproar – and support for the newspaper increased.

The foundation of Socialist People's Party 1961 with two representatives in the Storting: Finn Gustavsen and Asbjørn Holm, the political situation changed. For the first time after the war, the Norwegian Workers' Party no longer had a majority on its own and in 1963 the "outrageous" thing happened that the government had to resign. The incitement against SF was intense, but the opportunities to voice "heretical" opinions became more numerous. The ice cracked.

Orientering retained its independent position but briefed on the new party. After a few years SF became the main shareholder. Orientering had always had some domestic policy substance in addition to foreign policy. Now, the Storting's work, the changing political climate and the fight against Norwegian membership in the EC contributed to the increase in substance width, not least on financial issues, working and living conditions. Younger people took over the editorial, first Kjell Cordtsen and Kjell Gjøstein Resi and in the 1970s the quartet Kjell Cordtsen, John E. Andersson, Erling Borgen and Bjørn Bjøro. They tried to gain a better foundation in the trade union movement and the large workplaces. In 1971, the newspaper was changed with permanent columns for 30 commentators, 10 of whom were prominent trade unionists, from SF as well as outside. Of the thirty, there were two women: the Swedish author Sara Lidman and the Christian People's Party politician Bergfrid Fjose.

Male Dominance

Norway was a solid human society da Orientering was formed. Few kvinner had higher education and professional work. Some were active in peace and women's organisations, but their activities were hampered by the Cold War, male dominance and political alignment. It was said that "politics was something for men" and the few women who participated in political parties were often isolated in their own departments.

Orientering was also strongly male-dominated. Both the board and the editorial staff were dominated by men. I joined the radical Socialist Student Team in Oslo in 1956, started writing in Orientering in 1958 and attend the 1960 editorial meetings. It was not only easy. No one objected to my presence, but I was not particularly appreciated, either. Usually I was the only woman and the atmosphere could be pretty "masculine" and rough. When I delivered my first post, about US development aid, I was very uncertain because as a woman I ventured into a distinctly male field. I had refined the text many times and delivered it to the editor personally. Gustavsen said nothing, just took the article and put it on a pile of papers. No criticism, neither good nor bad. I was pretty disappointed. But the article came in print. The editor took it for granted when it was I who brought it, but I didn't know. Later Finn and Sigurd later supported me when I wanted to write about topics that others had little sense of, not least cultural, social and school politics.

Torild Skar, was a long-standing employee Orientering, And here also the writer behind this essay. Here From Orientering)

I OrienteringThere were always women's board of directors: two, three or four. Ola Bonnevie first got me there and then, as the first and only woman, I was appointed to the editorial committee from 1962 to 1965. In 1965 I became a deputy representative to the Storting and joined the committee, although I continued to write in the newspaper. Orientering was reorganized with new editors and an all-male editorial board. In 1969, SF dropped out of the Storting and I remained on the editorial committee until I moved to Tromsø in 1971. Now also Gro Standnes appointed to the committee and the second wave of women's issues began to make itself felt so that later there were two or three women on the committee (but they never exceeded 30 per cent). It was not until 1974 that a woman joined the permanent editorial staff. Lise Winther was an exceptionally skilled journalist and left a mark on the newspaper, among other things with the "women's material" she brought in.

In the early 1960s, I worked as a secretary in SF's parliamentary group and asked Finn Gustavsen if I could be relevant as Orienterings editor when he was to resign. The answer was an unequivocal "no" – having an academic was bad enough, if not even a woman! He thought in particular of the newspaper's appeal to the large male workplaces. So it was the two Kjells who took over. For the sake of order, it must be added that I received support from Gustavsen for other positions. He insisted that I be his deputy in the Storting in 1965 and wanted me as his successor in 1969 (something I did not want).

Indispensable backers

In a very significant but not visible area, women played a key role in Orientering. It was in the administration, with business management and practical work.

Arna Sunde came from a bourgeois environment in Flekkefjord, but was passionate about pacifism and peace work. She worked for People's Rise Against War and for Orientering from the start. She did not take part in debates, but when the practical tasks were to be solved, she was first and foremost, whether it was to register new subscribers, keep accounts or – albeit reluctantly – wash floors. She sacrificed herself completely, even when she began to lose health, and in 1957 she died at the age of only 42 years of cancer.

After Arna Sunde other women joined: Gudrun Halvorsen, Ellen Wennberg, Grethe Haldorsen, Marit Landsem Berntsen, Erna Jensen, Birgit Laudal and more. There were no lucrative positions, although the economy gradually improved. If they did not work as hard as Arna, they worked with great dedication under demanding conditions to get the newspaper going and made an effort Orientering couldn't have been besides. In addition, some of them wrote in the newspaper. Nevertheless, the name of the business manager on the newspaper head was missing for many years. It only came when a male business manager was appointed in 1965 (but disappeared later).

Substantial "women's fabric"

It was preferably men who filled Orienterings splits, but women also contributed. During the time the newspaper came out, well over a hundred women wrote articles of various kinds. They commented on foreign and defense policy issues, discussed the content of socialism and corporate democracy, raised education, cultural and social politics and struck a battle for equality. While most only wrote one or a few articles, a handful more often, some contributed for many years.

From the very beginning, the doctor became Nic Wall and Johanne Åmlid involved as employees. But after five years, Nic Waal called for more material about applied psychology and social psychology, and Margarete Bonnevie wanted the magazine to focus its sharp spotlight on women's problems.

I gave the editors a list of more than 200 women who could be of interest to the editors, without this having any significant impact.

There was not exactly a woman queue to write in the newspaper. It took a lot to break out of the traditional roles and engage politically on the left. But SF attracted more women than it did Orientering. One should ideally write in a newspaper and it did not stand out as particularly woman-friendly, even though there were some female writers and some men who wrote about "soft material areas". The attitude towards women and "women's material" in the editorial office was ambivalent. And the younger generation was no more spacious than the older one. Then the other women'swhen the wave came, it struck surprisingly little. In 1972 I wondered, among other things, why the newspaper neglected the success of women in the municipal elections in 1971 and asked about Orientering just for men? I gave the editorial board a list of more than 200 women who might be of interest to the editorial staff, without any significant impact.

Foreign and defense experts

But we were some women who wrote, both about "hard" and "soft" fabric.

I Orienterings first decade was particularly marked Liv Schjødt themselves with foreign policy material. She was an interior architect and became known as a housing reformer in Oslo for her statement: "You cannot create first-class citizens in third-class housing". She wrote in Kvinnen og Tiden and was head of the Oslo Women's Affairs Association. But i Orientering she wrote mainly about the Mediterranean area and Africa south of the Sahara. She followed the conflicts in the Middle East and the African struggle for independence. In particular, she had insight into French colonialism in West Africa, which few Norwegians otherwise knew about. Turid rugaas supplemented with material about the Kurds and Randi Kittelsen sent a travel letter from a visit among the freedom fighters in Algeria.

In the newspaper's second decade, two foreign women came strongly into the picture. Sarah Lidman was one of the leading contemporary authors in Sweden and wrote a number of novels about social contradictions and solidarity. The interview book was particularly popular Mine about the workers' conditions under Swedish capitalism. IN Orientering she wrote mostly about foreign policy with a focus on Southeast Asia. She supported the Vietnamese people's struggle against the Americans and attacked Nixon's United States for waging war, committing crimes and hunting for oil in Indo-China. In line with Sara Lidman, the poet wrote John Schwartz. As a child, she fled the persecution of Jews in Vienna and settled in Sweden. In 1961 she came to the University of Bergen to teach Swedish language and literature and later worked in schools at Voss and at Kongsberg, despite the fact that she was almost blind. Johanna was involved in a number of solidarity movements and wrote short poems ("dagsedler") with searing reflections on national and international politics. Also, she reviewed fiction books and helped give Orientering a cultural profile.

On Orienterings core area: NATO and defense policy, two Norwegian women played a distinctive role. Johanne Åmlid was a housewife in Hedmark, joined the Norwegian Labor Party in 1927 and was given a number of municipal positions. In 1949, she was elected as a representative to the Norwegian Workers' Party's national meeting, where the NATO decision was taken. She reacted very negatively to both the decision and the proceedings and bravely came forward afterwards with her criticism. In addition to writing about other topics secured Kari Enholm for a number of years that Orientering had a solid coverage of security policy and in particular NATO issues. She did not have an educational background for this, but she gained insight with the NATO side's experts with a conscientious research talent. In addition to articles in Orientering she wrote several books on NATO base Norway, alliance politics and nuclear disarmament. Finn Gustavsen said Kari Enholm was the one who, more than anyone else, helped the newspaper and SF to assert themselves in these difficult and delicate questions.

Wide range of topics

Other women contributed opinions and expertise in areas such as labor organization, pay and participation, education and cultural policy, social issues and mental health, kindergartens and families, housing and community housing, sexual education and abortion, gradually becoming more clearly the mark of women's perspectives. Among these were not only Margarete Bonnevie and Nic Waal, but also lawyer Rønnaug Eliassen, poet Inger Hagerup, kindergarten teacher Margrethe Hølmebakk, assistant professor Mosse Jørgensen, architect Bente Lund and author Torborg Nedreaas.

Other women contributed opinions and expertise in areas such as work organisation, pay and co-determination, education and cultural policy, social issues and mental hygiene, daycare centers and the family, housing and collective housing, sexual education and abortion, gradually with increasingly clearer marking of women's perspectives

In addition to the more established women, there were some of us young people who started working in newspapers. We learned journalism and writing in addition to assisting with practical tasks. Hilde Bojer studied social economics and was leader of the Socialist Student Union. IN Orientering she wrote about socialist market economy, corporate democracy, collective bargaining and taxation, but also about developing countries and aid, especially about Africa. Gro Standnes studied sociology and criminology, was a member of the central board of SF's youth organization and Socialist Student Association. She was very versatile: wrote about developments in the United States and torture in Greece, concentration of power and indoctrination in Norwegian society, textbooks and the mass media, crime, transport policy and women in working life – in addition to working on Orienterings office and kitchen.

Over the course of seventeen years, I myself wrote about 400 articles of larger and smaller scope. It was a clear record on the women's side. In addition to posts and notes, I made reports and series on socialism, the United States and the United Kingdom, Africa, Egypt and Israel, Iceland and Northern Norway, disabled children and youth policy, our mothers, the UN and the Women's Conference in Mexico. Besides, I was a time Orienterings movie reviewer.

Late acknowledgment

In 1975, then Orientering was to retire after more than twenty years of operation, editor Kjell Cordtsen acknowledged that Orientering had a fundamental weakness when it came to following up the women's struggle. Only 3,5 percent of the articles dealt with women
policy. On the post and comment pages, 17,5 percent were devoted to women's issues. Although this was better, it was still far too weak. The editors had to take a collective self-criticism on this point, maintained an unusually modest editor, and pointed out that a number of issues related to consumption, leisure, cohabitation, sexuality, art and culture, sport, health, children and education also had to be given a more central place in newspaper and SF.

Nevertheless, some men did not understand when the national meeting of the Socialist Left Party in 1975 established Ny Tid as the main body for the party with a female editor, Audgunn Oltedal, and five women in an editorial board of eleven.

Torild Skard
Torild Skard
Researcher and author. Former employee of Orientering.

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