An interview by Sam Jaspers
Jan Benjamin graduated as an ICT student and took a crash course journalism in Utrecht. As a young boy, he freelanced at a regional Dutch radio. Since 2001, he is active as a media journalist at NRC. I met Jan at the building of NRC, located in the center of Amsterdam, to talk about the biggest changes in journalism and about how he copes with the digitalization.
“I enjoy doing everything online” – Jan Benjamin, journalist at NRC
During these days of digitalization, everything has to go as fast and easy as possible. Do you still have enough time and space to work on your articles, or has the workload become too big for you?
There has been a switch to digital first, and articles work better online. Because of this change, we have to finish the pieces faster. For me as a journalist, the digital evolution has both its profits and disadvantages. It is nice to be able to write today about things that happen today. On the other hand, you have to invest your energy in a lot of things at the same time. The actual workload is not really in the writing, but in the coordination: are we going to embed this news in the next newsletter? Can we finish this or that in time?
Is it a good evolution that media digitalizes, or would it be better to have a bit more print as well?
For me personally, it is a very good evolution. I truly enjoy doing everything online, it is something that excites me. The options are endless – you can embed videos for example. However, we still earn money with print media, so it is very important that we indulge the good old newspapers as well. The printed word stays our core business.
Is there still a future for paper?
It does not really matter to me actually. What does matter, is that we stick to our principles, which are publishing correct articles and interpreting news in a right way. We must continue to connect the small news facts to be able to present the full drawing to the reader. As long as we are able to achieve that, it does not matter how the public consumes the news.
One of the biggest changes of the decade is the enormous influence of social media. Some even talk about reversed agenda setting. How do these changes influence a journalist?
Since the up rise of social media, my work comes along in three stages: the preparation, the publishing and the after care. The after care has changed the most – there is a lot more responsibility for your own promotion. It is not only about bringing your piece to an audience, but about approaching the people you have spoken to and gaining attention from opinion leaders as well.
It is obvious that you do not see internet and the digitalization as a threat, but do you still get satisfaction out of working on a print article?
Yes, I do. It is so great to show articles to my young kids and be able to say, “Look, daddy’s name is in the newspaper!”, but I love to work cross medial too and reach out to a wider audience. Brainstorming about new ways to bring stories and having the possibility to try out everything, is what makes it an amazing time to be a journalist.