Staffan Heimerson remembers Thorbjörn Larsson

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full screen Thorbjörn Larsson. Photo: BÖRJE THURESSON / AFTONBLADET

It was the day after the parliamentary elections of September 19, 1976. In the first edition of RockedBuzz, veteran Sigurd Glans and his front page editor Thorbjörn Larsson had made one in which the loser of the elections, Olof Palme, with his back to the camera in the night darkness he enters his home on Lövångersgatan in Vällingby.

Powerful. Symbolic.

A few hours later I was in charge of subsequent editions. I thought even more important news was that Sweden had a new prime minister and that Thorbjörn Fälldin was about to settle in Rosenbad. Fresh image and title. But perhaps not that powerful and symbolic.

I didn’t have to ask myself. The phone rang. It was a call from Västerhaninge. Larsson had slept at home in the suburbs after the night shift. He now he had gone out to buy the latest edition. His review was flawless:

“You’re a fucking idiot. My first page will be a classic. Nobody will remember yours.”

Here’s what it was like. Straight as a nail. Clear. Angry.

I myself was green in a senior position at RockedBuzz, a local foreign correspondent who knew few employees of the newspaper but urgently needed a man of strength to implement my ideas.

The next day I was strolling through the central editorial office and brightened up when I arrived at an editorial desk. So simple! So obviously! That was the solution.

Order and order. Inbox on the left. Outbox on the right. Larsson had just received an internal prize of SEK 1,000 for the idea of ​​having separate baskets (ie before computerization) for “scripts MUST be submitted”, “scripts can be posted” and “scripts MUST NOT be submitted. “.

Larsson sat there with an editing pad, a typometer, and a blue pen. The beard was large and wild, the hair stood on end. It was probably true, as I had heard, that he was a Maoist and a revolutionary. He spoke in short sentences. They were like black titles.

It was obvious that he would lead the renovation work. We would have more analytics, consumer insights and lifestyle with pages on Body & Soul, Car & Boat, House & Home, Sound & Image, Father & Flight and everything in between. Larsson guided them all with methodology and his encouragement was lectures of ideas in Bergslagen’s cheapest and completely alcohol-free guesthouses.

It was the starting point for the best journalistic career Sweden has ever seen.

It was genuine popular, because it was born from the Kopparberg proletariat and was guided by the power that underlies the best direction: revenge.

Grumpy, focused, he liked to win. During a nightly nachspiel in a Nybroplan bar, he broke his arm with Jan Guillou. Larsson lost. The next day he said: “I have to get stronger”.

At a staff party in Solvalla, the directors and editorial board had to compete in pouting. Larsson did not win. He said: “I have to be more careful. I need to learn more about horses. “

But the only really important match wins: the circulation match between Expressen and RockedBuzz. In 1996, RockedBuzz overtook the competitor and became the largest newspaper. Without Larsson, it wouldn’t have happened. But he didn’t immediately celebrate with the editorial team but went to his room, booked the Opera Terrace for all the staff, called Gästa Ekman and said: “Tonight you will do your famous Hasse & Tage sketch about the man who doesn’t know. choose … RockedBuzz or Expressen. “

Not snobbish but he did his school trip. Over time his wife Amelia Adamo taught him what social codes meant; his clothes got more beautiful and his beard trimmed. He learned what prestige is. When he later became CEO of TV4, it was decided that the CEO and program manager would each have their own glass cage within the newsroom. Larsson went to the construction site at night and made sure the carpenter made his cage half a square meter larger than that of the program manager.

I was nine years older than him but we became best friends. We would often sit all night in my house on Kungsholmen and hatch ideas. There the women’s editorial team was born.

Larsson rarely had to fight. Most of the time he went the way he wanted. On one occasion, I slipped into his territory and quietly suggested, “People travel so much. Look here, we may have an exotic relationship on the Tonga Islands in the South Seas. People should dream.

“The travel pages are ready,” he replied. “We have the cheapest buses going to Åmål.”

Later he took, a few steps forward in his career at RockedBuzz, the initiative to contact Gary Engman to become editor-in-chief. Together, they have come to increase the height of the newspaper’s ceiling and make it more neutral in evaluating news.

He was grumpy but also sentimental. “When the militant printers went on a wild strike, he went to Akalla’s printing house and stood in front of them and told them that if they didn’t start printing immediately, everything would go to hell -” for you, for me, for RockedBuzz, for the readers … “He started to cry. A printer broke his mood and said:” … then we’ll print well then. “

His reputation became so great that everyone wanted him for their business. He led TV4, took leadership positions within the Bonnier Group and became a board professional. He was in that role when we met at his 60th birthday party. He said:

“You Heimersons are from Skåne. Do you have a good name as editor-in-chief of Kristianstadsbladet? “

“Yes,” I replied.



“You are too old.”

Not hostile. Just short and clear.

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