top of page

June 12, 2024

Creating powerful local journalism: How Borås Tidning’s investigative team builds community connections while driving conversions and supporting the brand

At Borås Tidning in the southwest of Sweden a small investigative team is producing a big impact for its newsroom. The all female three person team is using time honoured journalistic work methods to dig up stories on questionable and illegal practices used by local businesses and people. These stories drive twice as many conversions as other articles and the team generates a flood of tips from readers – all while supporting the news title’s brand and mission. And the significance of the all female team? They win the trust of female sources.

Presented by Lena Kvist, Head of Investigative Journalism at Borås Tidning (part of GotaMedia Goup) in Sweden

By Cecilia Campbell

Investigative journalism is on brand, on mission and local readers love it

200 year old Borås Tidning is the only newspaper in the eponymous city of Borås in the southwest of Sweden, home to just over 100,000 people. Journalist Lena Kvist has worked there for some 15 years. Before she became head of the new investigative team three years ago, she was the Culture Editor. “The change from a much more posh and polite journalistic context was pretty rough. I went from a position where everyone wanted to meet me and be interviewed, to a position where no one wants to meet me and be interviewed, instead they want to hide what they are doing,” she told the Innovate Local community.

Borås Tidning had absolutely done investigative reporting before 2021. “We are dedicated to our social mission: independent journalism, freedom of speech, creating platforms for democratic discussion. The Investigative Team was created after years of the paper trying to dig more deeply into the hidden stories of our area. We had been successful, occasionally, but we wanted to be more systematic.” The newsroom put together a team of three. Lena Kvist is head of the department, but she also does research, supports at interviews, and writes. The other two journalists on the team are Jennie Ölund and Anne Bengtsson.


According to Lena Kvist, historically in Sweden, some investigative teams have struggled with the relationship with the rest of the newsroom. “We really wanted there to be an active collaboration,” said Kvist. “We always let news editors know what we are working on, and sometimes other reporters have dug up evidence pertaining to one of our stories. The key thing for this collaboration is communication and the need to dig deeper is extremely contagious in our newsroom. There are at least half a dozen reporters who have conducted important investigations over the last few years, on their own or in collaboration with our investigative team."

On a weekly basis Borås Tidning has two million page views and rising, with over 30,000 subscribers in total. The newspaper recently reached the print-digital tipping point where more than half of subscribers are now digital. “We believe that our investigative journalism is vital to creating digital growth and keeping our readers loyal.” In fact, the average number of conversions from investigative stories are twice that for other stories, and the average number of pageviews are about three times as high.

In terms of promoting the investigative stories to new audiences, Lena Kvist says there is still work to do. “We do create trailers for Instagram and we go out and do talks to young people and others groups in the community, but we could do more to market our journalism.” Borås Tidning is part of Gota Media, a company which has formed a partnership with Scandinavia’s biggest publishing group Bonnier, which means BT is now part of one of Sweden’s largest subscription bundles, +Allt (+Everything), “so the potential is enormous, because people from all over the country get access to our stories.”

Recent stories: Moving Bluff Empire, Fake Dr Essaam and the Teacher Swindler

Lena Kvist covered some of the most remarkable stories her team and the wider newsroom have uncovered recently (please watch the webinar for full details):

Moving Bluff Empire. Four Borås brothers set up and ran at least seven different companies purporting to be movers. It all looked very professional on the surface, but the brothers stole people’s identities to use in communication as well as using their bank accounts. “This story was complicated, but we managed to find some inside sources and the story got worse and worse the deeper we dug. We discovered major tax fraud and a mafia like structures, where the brothers were using threats to keep people from talking. ”We are the law”, the brothers used to tell people.

Fake Dr Essaam. Doctor Essam ran a successful dental clinic in central Borås but the BT team started getting alarming reports from patients. Some of them had their teeth pulled out in what seemed to be a non-professional way, some complained of other forms of maltreatment. 

And there was more to it. A number of  female patients stated that Dr Essam had harassed them sexually by massaging their breasts claiming it was to relax the patients.

The Teacher Swindler. This is the story of a female teacher in Borås who was systematically selling sex through escort pages. During the research the team also found that not only was the teacher selling sex and using the escort pages during school hours, but they discovered that 25 people had also filed police complaints against her, with accusations of fraud. “I should point out that In Sweden it’s illegal to buy sex, but not to sell sex. So legally, the teacher wasn’t doing anything wrong. But then again, she was teaching in a school run by the city of Borås, and there is a rule that states you can’t pursue other work that could damage your credibility in your role representing the city.”

Whistle blowers and female sources


Sometimes featured people's names are published, sometimes not. Swedish journalism operates under a well established system of self regulation, which guides these editorial decisions.

Lena Kvist talked about how the fact that her team are all women likely has an impact on sources. “In the Dr Essam case, for example, it was an advantage for us to be female journalists – the female patients who claimed he had fondled them found this embarrassing to talk about and they might not even have told this part to a male journalist. These women were all of Arabic descent. We were working with anonymous sources on this part, so we made sure we had a number of former patients talking, independently of each other.”


And even though Sweden has one of the world's oldest laws in terms of public transparency and availability of records, most of the stories that BT finds, come in via whistle blowers, rather than journalists trawling through public records. Lena Kvist said the safety of journalists, sources and whistle blowers are a big concern. “We talk a lot about the safety for journalists, but actually often the whistle blowers are actually nearer the potential danger. We stay in touch with them a long time after publication. Sometimes they accept to be quoted on the record, and some of them think that makes it less dangerous for them – it’s harder for someone to do something to them if they have gone public with their allegations.”

Awards amid tougher competition

Investigative journalism is currently on an upward trajectory in local media in Sweden. Borås Tidning is a leader in the field. "We have been nominated five years in a row to the prestigious Swedish Investigative Journalism Award The Golden Shovel, but the competition is getting tougher and tougher.  From around 25 contributions every year – which is also a lot! – there has been over 40 investigative projects in the competition the last couple of years. The Local Newspaper category has gone from a small category to one of the largest," said Kvist.

Key Success Factors & Top Tips

Lena Kvist talked about what she sees as the most important aspects of running successful investigations:

• Leaving the newsroom. We all love our computers, but in order to meet people we need to be out in the community.

• Co-working – reporters never do it alone.

• Taking our time, away from the daily news.

She also mentioned that their biggest challenge right now is not identifying the stories, but actually making the most of them.

Lena Kvist’s top tips for keeping the “Investigations Machine” running:

• Alternate long and short investigations. Investigations can be very tiring if you only keep them long.

• Start writing! Watch out for The Research Hypnosis Syndrome, which happens when you get hypnotized by your own story and can’t  stop yourself from researching. Be aware!

• Make sure that your editor-in-chief has your back. It will get ugly sometimes and you will need strong support. 


Looking forward, Kvist said the team wants to add different formats to its palette, including shorter formats and audio. “We have tried out podcasts, and they are very popular with the audience, but they are very time consuming, because we are beginners. We’d like to try shorter podcast formats as well.”

Useful links and contact information

bottom of page