• Sweden's news in English
 
almadalen_header

The fuzzy hamster that took Sweden for a ride

Published: 31 Jan 2014 18:04 GMT+01:00

Börje burst onto the Swedish news scene last Tuesday when an odd wire story came across the TT news agency feed that supplies news to just about every news outlet in Sweden.

"Börje can't be municipality hamster" the headline read. In the brief telegram that followed, news editors could read that the city of Kalmar in southern Sweden had decided the Börje the hamster could not be a municipality hamster.

Readers learned that owner Bo-Göran Sunesson had tried to get rid of little Börje by turning him into a public record (allmän handling). Authorities refused, but laughed about the matter, and Sweden laughed along with them over the cute little unwanted creature.

Soon after the item hit the TT wires, Börje's plight was plastered on news websites across the country. (After considering the item at The Local -- how often does one get to write a story about a hamster -- we ultimately decided to pass as the details were a bit, er, fuzzy).

As it turns out, Börje has one even more remarkable trait than being a Swedish media darling:

He doesn't actually exist. 

For that matter, neither does owner Bo-Göran. They are both figments of the imagination of 21-year-old journalism student Dan Eliasson. Curiosity led Eliasson to employ Börje in a little experiment to learn more about public records in Sweden. But instead, he ended up learning more about the behaviour of Swedish media. 

“In Sweden we have this principle that some things are public, and these public records are very important for a journalist,” Eliasson tells The Local, referring to Sweden’s right to information act (offentlighetsprincipen). “Understanding these documents is one of the keys to journalism. I was also curious about how news travels."

Reflecting on Sweden's information laws and open access to certain types of public records, Eliasson decided to write an email to Kalmar municipality and test the rules “just for fun”.

"I have tried to get rid of Börje but unfortunately nobody wants the sweet little rodent,"  Eliasson wrote, posing as hamster owner Bo-Göran in the email. "Then the thought hit me that if I give him to you, he can be registered (as a public record) and then he can make many people happy."

Municipality officials refused, however, saying that a hamster could not be a public record - and Börje would not become a municipality hamster. The humorous story reached local media and then spread across Sweden via TT's quick summary of local news reports.

Eliasson marveled at how news of Börje spread like wildfire across news sites and social media. Suddenly, it seemed, Sweden was talking about Börje.

But the budding  journalist was even more surprised when only five journalists - and no one from TT - actually tried to track down the original source and speak with mythical owner Bo-Göran Sunesson, even though his email address was readily available.

So on Wednesday, Eliasson went public and let the media know: There is no hamster.

“At first I was just surprised that the story became this big,” Eliasson, who is in his final year of studies at Linné Univesity in Kalmar, told The Local. “And then I became confused, and then almost frustrated that no more than five people tried to find the original source. I was very surprised.”

Eliasson believes the story’s popularity was thanks to the way it tickled Swedish readers – probably in a way that it wouldn’t have if it had been about a dog or a more generic animal.

“I don’t know why I chose a hamster, it just felt right," Eliasson mused. "Maybe because it’s so specific, a gold hamster. But it’s a funny story, and (media) want to get hits on their webpages. It’s funny news stories that gets clicks. The hamster adds something, though; I can’t understand what.”

But the desire for clicks can be dangerous, and Eliasson said the most important thing he learned from the little experiment was to always go back to the original source.

“It’s not just a Swedish problem, but a problem with media in general,” Eliasson said. “As a journalist you are stressed, and you have to produce a lot in a short amount of time. You might not always find that you have the time to check everything, so you start trusting other media. And that is the centre of the problem. As it’s called in the scientific world, it’s cannibalization…you take someone else’s story and make it your own, so to speak. You trust the other media too much.”

At any rate, Eliasson achieved his goal of learning about public records and Swedish media, and the project turned out to be both entertaining and educational. But Eliasson isn't quite sure he's ready to put Börje to rest. 

“I have actually gotten quite attached to this hamster that everybody finds so interesting,” Eliasson laughed. “So I’ve thought about getting a hamster. He would definitely be called Börje. And I wouldn't give him up, there’s no way he’d be sitting in an archive.”

SEE ALSO: Sweden's most dangerous wildlife - revealed

Editor's Note: The Local's Swede of the Week is someone in the news who - for good or ill - has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.

Solveig Rundquist
Follow Solveig on Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Almedalen 2015
LIVE: Sweden's political power forum - Day Five
Sweden's Green Party leader Gustav Fridolin at Almedalen. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

LIVE: Sweden's political power forum - Day Five

Education as well as environmental issues topped the agenda when Sweden's Green Party co-leader Gustav Fridolin took to the stage on day five of Almedalen - Sweden's biggest week in politics. READ  

European heatwave
Sizzling Swedes warned of heatwave sickness
Swedes enjoying warm weather in Stockholm on July 2nd 2015. Photo: TT

Sizzling Swedes warned of heatwave sickness

UPDATED: Thursday turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far in Sweden, but extreme heat in the south east has got people worried about forest fires and weather-related sickness. READ  

Snake on the slither in southern Sweden
This is (probably) not the snake mentioned in the story. Photo: AP Photo/J Pat Carter

Snake on the slither in southern Sweden

A three-metre long python spotted in a popular park in Malmö remained on the loose on Thursday afternoon. READ  

Shock as Sweden slashes interest rate
Swedish kronor. Photo: TT/Jonas Ekströmer

Shock as Sweden slashes interest rate

UPDATED: Sweden’s central bank (the Riksbank) has lowered the country’s historic low interest rate even further. The key rate, the repo, now stands at minus 0.35 percent. READ  

Almedalen 2015
'If the Russians come our whole lives will change'
What's on the horizon for Gotland? Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

'If the Russians come our whole lives will change'

Recent claims that Russia rehearsed a military takeover of Gotland stirred up fear among Swedes – but how do people living here feel? The Local asked islanders what life is like in the bullseye of Sweden. READ  

Almedalen 2015 with ConnectSweden
Sweden's 'incredible' chance to connect
Photo: The Local

Sweden's 'incredible' chance to connect

Sweden's connections to the world are in the spotlight this week, as the hottest names at Almedalen gather to discuss the impact of connectivity on jobs, tourism, and relations with other countries. The Local is on the scene. READ  

Swedish firm embroiled in US antitrust lawsuit
Swedish appliances firm Electrolux has been sued. Photo: Fredrik Persson/SCANPIX

Swedish firm embroiled in US antitrust lawsuit

Swedish giant Electrolux's attempt to snap up General Electric's appliance business has been met with a lawsuit by US antitrust officials, saying the $3.3 billion deal would harm consumers. READ  

What's on in Sweden
Six hip spots to sun seek in Sweden's capital
Solstugan sun terrace in Kristineberg. Photo: Solstugan

Six hip spots to sun seek in Sweden's capital

Here's our pick of places to enjoy the warm weather that's finally made its way to the Swedish capital, along with our weekly guide to what's on in the rest of the country. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Four
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson, speaking on Wednesday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Four

The nationalist Sweden Democrat party's leader Jimmie Åkesson has told his nation's biggest political conference that he wants to create a better county for children and crack down on extremism. READ  

IN PICTURES
Thousands welcome home Sweden’s heroes

Thousands welcome home Sweden’s heroes

Stockholm’s Kungsträdgården park was packed with tens of thousands of Swedish football fans on Wednesday afternoon as they welcomed the country’s Under-21 team home after their historic European Championship win in Prague. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Politics
Almedalen: The Local's guide to Sweden's power players week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Swedes soak up sun on hottest day of year
Sport
Sweden celebrates greatest sporting victory in decades
Gallery
People-watching: July 1st
Sponsored Article
VIP Mingle at Almedalen's hottest event
Blog updates

26 June

Editor’s blog, June 26th (The Local Sweden) »

"Greetings from Stockholm, We’re about to transport our newsroom to the idyllic Swedish island of Gotland for..." READ »

 

23 June

Defending Our Interests … And Our Allies (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"This is an important week for European security, with decisions affecting Europe’s unstable Southern and Eastern..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Swede battles slug invasion
Sponsored Article
What can we learn from Swedish women's sex habits?
National
VIDEO: Is this herring tasting clip an 'insult to Sweden'?
Gallery
Property of the week: Visby, Gotland
National
Sweden set for sunniest week of year
Gallery
People-watching: June 26th-28th
Features
The Local's essential guide to who's who in Swedish politics
National
More Swedish military exercises as Russia aggression fears grow
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Travel
Why Swedish camp sites are set for a bumper summer
National
Swedish summer's really on its way (at least according to forecasters)
Gallery
People-watching: June 24th
National
Why are southern Swedes angry about becoming 'Danish' again?
Society
Lifestyle: When to catch your favourite features on The Local
National
Is Sweden one of the world's most peaceful nations?
Sponsored Article
Harstena: Travelling to Sweden's secret islands
National
One in ten Swedish cats homeless
Sponsored Article
'I constantly evolve my Swedishness'
Gallery
Property of the week: Värmdö, Stockholm
Society
Would you eat this Swedish pizza?
National
Swedish royals' dream honeymoon
National
Swedish hospital opens first centre for male rape victims
Gallery
People-watching: June 20th-21st
Photo: TT
Lifestyle
Midsummer: The Local's guide to Sweden's craziest festival
Sponsored Article
Murder, myth and magic: Travelling to the birthplace of Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th
Sponsored Article
Gallery: Life in Sweden's secret archipelago
Society
Seven alternative names for Sweden's Prince Nicolas Paul Gustaf
National
FBI returns stolen Swedish books
National
Want to smell like Zlatan?
National
Royal joy over birth of new prince
Gallery
Property of the week: Brantevik, Simrishamn
National
How racy graffiti inspired a teacher's high school sex class
Gallery
People-watching: June 12th-14th
National
As it happened: Prince Carl Philip marries Sofia Hellqvist
Technology
Is Stockholm the world's creative capital?
National
Timeline: Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
KTH President: ‘Sweden’s success is because of its size’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: New royal couple Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Features
Ten Swedish festivals to discover
Features
Ten reasons Stockholm is definitely way cooler than Copenhagen
National
VIDEO: Watch Swedish man rescue baby elk from cold creek
National
VIDEO: Have you seen this jet ski blunder at a Malmö hotel opening?
Gallery
People-watching: June 10th
National
Swedish airports launch cheeky safe sex toilet campaign
Sponsored Article
Why expat women are choosing Swedish natural birth control
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: Nine questions every expat should ask
Sponsored Article
The millionaire teacher who leads by tough love
Sponsored Article
How to change the world: Malmö to Mogadishu
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,191
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se