Multi-multi-lungual: New Svalbardposten editor familiar with many languages by many definitions


It’s daunting enough to be a new newspaper editor sitting down on the first day and facing the task of getting out the next issue. Hilde Kristin Røsvik found herself facing the necessity of publishing two during the same week.

Røsvik spent the past year speaking a lot of languages – professionally and personally –before becoming the new editor of Svalbardposten on June 1. But she said a short detour working as a communications advisor and a longer one globetrotting with her son didn’t blunt the high-speed edge she’s honed during 15 years as a news editor.

“I felt as fast as I got in the chair again I was in the news business,” said Røsvik, who celebrated her 53th birthday 11 days after beginning her new job, in an interview the day after she finished those first two issues.

Still, “it has been long days, I must admit.”

Røsvik succeeds Eirik Palm, who departed at the end of May after two-and-a-half years at the paper, and two reporters who served as temporary editors.

But while the work and pace are familiar, not all of the language is. One of the articles she wrote during her first week, for example, was about the new strosse (stope) for tourists inside Mine 3, which meant quickly learning some new industrial terminology she’ll need to quickly become familiar with.

“I just said ‘I’m completely new,'” she said, describing her discussion with those hosting the visit. “They were very nice and explained things to me.”

Then there was the “other” type of language issue as one of the two publications due her first week was the annual English-language Top of the World magazine aimed at tourists. Although much of the work was finished before her arrival, it still meant an intense dose of double last-minute editing in two different languages.

But Røsvik, who speaks Chinese, English, German and French – and hopes to learn Russian while she’s here – said she wasn’t daunted by the scope of the challenge.

“Nothing has been hard,” she said. “I don’t see things are a big problem. I just work my way through.”

And while Røsvik, like many previous editors, assert “Svalbardposten is more unique than any newspaper on the mainland,” some of that goes beyond the articles and issues that can only be found in the world’s northernmost town.

“It’s really strange for me to think the deadline is Wednesday and it comes out on Friday,” she said. “So what happens when something happens Thursday?”

The answer, of course, is the internet – an increasingly tricky prospect as the circulation of print editions continues to decline industrywide and many readers are reluctant to embrace paywalls. Paywalls have existed under the past two Svalbardposten editors, each with a somewhat different policy, and Røsvik said her hope is to offer short amounts of content free online, and full versions to print and electronic subscribers.

“I haven’t yet decided how to solve this,” she added, noting she plans to learn the full scope of the job before setting specific policy goals for her time as editor.

The writing part and editing part came naturally enough during her first week. She said her favorite article in her debut issue was the cover story about kindergarten students from Longyearbyen visiting their peers in Barentsburg, where they spent the day participating in activities such as playing and singing together.

“They communicated, they had an understanding without speaking the same language,” she said.

But Røsvik said she expected her second week to be all about business.

“I have to catch up on the budget and meeting with the board,” she said.

That side of the news business is hardly unfamiliar to her either. She was the editor of the Giske newspaper Øy-Blikk from 2000 to 2012, then worked as the news editor for NRK in Møre and Romsdal from 2012 to mid-2015. She then worked briefly in communications for I&M Kommunikasjon, and spent the past summer and fall traveling the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Beijing with her son Eirik.

Røsvik said it will probably take at least until the end of the summer to learn all aspects of her new job but she already has one early thought about the article she would most like to write.

“I would really like to come out and visit those who are overwintering,” she said. “I would be nice to visit them if they were willing.”

“I am probably not aware of all the possibilities.”


“I think Svalbardposten isn’t just a newspaper,” she said. “It’s a special thing and the transition of the society here is also interesting.”
(shoutout to VG for clearing cover for Libération cover of Prine on death; Afterposten for Pamama Papers)