Initially, Vapaa Sana’s new editor Jonathan Riikonen studied forestry in Kotka, although his work experience includes rather wide selection of jobs. He has also worked as a reporter for some time during the last twenty years.
– I having been working with journalism actively altogether for 11 years during the last 23 years. In addition to that, I have had columns in several publications, including the Länsirannikon Uutiset in Vancouver and the Finnish American Reporter, Riikonen explains.
When he was still a student, Riikonen worked as a summer reporter in a small local newspaper and acted as the chair of communications committee of his school.
– After graduation, I did a one year internship for Milton Company in Mountain View, California. The facility burnt down soon after I had left there. I spent that winter in Mexico and Costa Rica teaching the basics of English. When I returned home in spring 1987 my former editor had transferred to Hyvinkään Uutiset so I was asked to work there too. I spent around four years there and in the meantime I also stayed in Australia for about six months, working as a freelance reporter from there.
After that, Riikonen’s life led him to Canada where he continued his journalistic career in Länsirannikon Uutiset.
– I flew to Canada to meet a friend and I ended up staying for five years. I worked in Länsirannikon Uutiset with Ritva Mourato. I also worked with movie industry. Inspired by that experience I have later written four screenplays and at the moment I am offering two of them to Hollywood. With my time in Vancouver, I got familiar with the Finnish-Canadian community, Riikonen says.
The Yet Unknown Toronto
Although Riikonen has lived all over the world, Toronto will still be a new experience for him.
– I am very exited to come to Toronto. It’s nice to return to the familiar Canadian way of living, even though I don’t know the city that well yet, Riikonen shares about his feelings soon before moving to Ontario.
In addition to the US, Canada and Europe, Riikonen has also lived for example in South-America and Asia.
– I also speak fluent Spanish. And I do know a few words of Chinese, Riikonen reveals.
In addition to his journalistic career, Riikonen has also worked as a photographer and teacher. Photographer he was when he worked for Caribbean cruise ships.
– I worked in three different ships and I got to see all the attractions, such as New York City, the Virgin Islands, Orinoco River, Panama Canal and Acapulco. Around that time my parents got sick so I returned to Finland and managed our strawberry farm for a few years. I also worked for the local newspapers Hyvinkään Sanomat and Riihimäki-Lehti, until they were combined and formed the newspaper Aamuposti.
Riikonen says that he has spent a few winters also in Los Angeles and South-America; for example Argentina, Brazil and Colombia.
In 2008, Riikonen decided to work as a teacher again.
– I became a substitute teacher and for two years I taught the basics of five different languages, technical handicrafts, Finnish, sports, geography and math for the pupils of grades 3-9 in different schools. This encouraged me to get the TEFL certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). In spring 2010, I went to China for a year to work as a teacher in an English school. Putian in the prefecture of Fujian was a small community of 3 million people and a very exotic experience on my career, Riikonen says.
Challenges for the Tavastian-Karelian
Riikonen is from Hausjärvi, which is located in the southern part of Häme Province. He says that his roots are still very Karelian.
– My mother evacuated from Antrea and my father was born in the neighbouring town, Heinjoki, Riikonen explains.
However, Riikonen grew up in Hausjärvi, a town Riikonen says is known of Leca building block factory and as the “mother town” of Riihikämi and Hyvinkää.
– The most famous location in Hausjärvi is Taka-Hikiä, which is actually a national joke in Finland. It means a sort of hillbilly kind of place. So am I therefore a cosmopolitan hillbilly? Riikonen ponders cleverly and continues: – The national hero of our town is Elmer Nikander who has four golden medals from two different Olympics. In Antwerp he won gold in discus throw and in shot put he got “only” silver when Finland’s Ville Pörhölä got gold. Hausjärvi is also the centre of civilization in Finland. It is where the first public school open for everyone was established. It’s called Eskon koulu and it was built on the grounds of Erkylä Mansion. The “Freiherr” Carl Munck was behind that project.
Riikonen, well-educated of the history of his home town, is expecting the job in Vapaa Sana to be a challenging one.
– I have been reading the paper and heard of the situation, that there are less and less readers all the time. I bet that one of the biggest challenges is to find new readers. Especially the younger generation people. This might mean that we have to increase the amount of English in the paper, but we will never turn our back on Finnish, Riikonen promises.
Riikonen who at the moment is in Finland for the summer arrives Toronto on August 3rd.
– I assume that the first days are spent learning new procedures and getting to know new people. Luckily, I’m used to moving from one country to another and to absorb new things quickly. I am also very thrilled about the upcoming NHL season. I’m that much Canadian already.