May 17: Better Read Than Dead

More media visits! Today we visited two newspapers, one focused on Amsterdam and one national paper. I thought I would like Het Parool, the Amsterdam paper, but they seemed very liberal for the sake of liberalism and like they were trying really hard to be cool. Its history was interesting, how they started as an anti-German paper during WWII and that’s how they gained their popularity after the war. There was a big focus on how to draw in younger readers, which they do by making some of their articles free online and having an additional online section. Also, they addressed that their newsroom is primarily Dutch and white, but they try to have diversity through their subject matter to appeal to Amsterdam’s diversity. I don’t buy it. I still think that if you want to represent a population in your content, that population has to be represented behind the scenes.

De Volkskrant was our next stop, in the same building. There were several newspapers under one roof, which was strange to me. But when you’re also owned by the same person, I guess proximity is a secondary consideration. I did like de Volkskrant much more, and not just because that translates to the People’s Paper. They transitioned very recently from a socialist paper to a neutral paper, and I really like their news philosophy, that you have to be objective, represent all points of view, ensure that you – as a paper – aren’t being used to created publicity and that you as detailed and come from as many viewpoints as possible.

De Volkskrant was also interesting because they had just introduced some new sections. Their Saturday paper now has a “Vonk” section. In America, reporters often write themselves into the story, describing the scene and how they interacted with their interviewees. That’s not a thing in the Netherlands, but de Volkskrant is introducing it in Vonk. Reporters take a role in their story and often have a person connection. I like that separation, it makes the rest of the paper more objective because you have a place for the personal. They also introduced a new section called Sir Edmund, after the first (European) man who climbed Everest. It’s an alternative to the multitude of inserts they used to have. That was also a big transition for readers because it forced them out of their comfort zone. Instead of just grabbing the science section, now they have the “peaks of human thought” in their hands.

That’s the other thing I really liked about de Volkskrant. They weren’t afraid to push their readers with new things, giving them a whole new paper on top of a complete change in perspective. That’s something I don’t think an American national daily paper could get away with because it would be too scared of the fallout. De Volkskrant is forcing people to get used to innovation and surviving storms of criticism to bring them about.

Today’s song is Amerika by Rammstein because today as we were walking down the street talking loudly, as Americans abroad do, someone yelled “Donald Trump!” at us and it was a little sobering. So, a band of East Germans yelling about America seemed appropriate.


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