From Typewriters to a Virtual Office

By Jasmine Wallis


With a rich journalism career dating back three decades, Robin Pascoe, 59, has seen the industry change drastically. After immigrating to the Netherlands from the U.K. and marrying a Dutchman, Robin realised there was a gap in the market for quality Dutch news in English. Founding Dutch News, (a free, online news destination for English speakers in the Netherlands) in 2006, Robin used her expertise to create a reliable digital space for journalism. With a resume that includes time at VisNews, the Algemeen Netherlands Persbureau (ANP), and the NRC Handelsblad, we asked Robin how she thinks the media landscape has changed and what the future of journalism holds.

When did you start your career?
I did my training in 1986 with the BBC London on a two-year graduate training program for radio.


You founded Dutch News in 2006, what made you want to start it?
I worked for the Financieele Dagblad paper for ten years. They used to do pieces in English and then they stopped so I decided to leave and start an English language news service because there wasn’t one in the Netherlands at the time.


How has the industry changed since you were a journalist in training?
Well, we used typewriters! There were no computers; we used carbon copies and hand-written corrections. Then after a couple of years we had a telex system we could use to send news stories from a satellite radio station down to the main one. Now of course, that’s all digital. You don’t need any of that anymore so you were much busier with your hands, I think.


Do you think it was slower-paced?
I think it was quicker paced because you learnt not to make mistakes. Now if you’re writing a piece you can change it, when you’re writing on a typewriter you have to write it. You can’t do all those changes because you don’t have the time! It’s not the way it works, so you learn to write much more directly and concisely.  


What do you think the future holds for journalism?
I think that’s a difficult question and I don’t really know what the answer is. I think there’ll always be a need for accuracy and someone that you know and can rely on, who’s not going to tell you nonsense.

There’ll always be space for doing what we do but it might be presented in a different way. In terms of traditional newspapers, I think they’re changing. If you look at a newspaper now it’s full of longer stories and I don’t know if that’s sustainable in the long term. I think magazines still have a place where you can sit in the bath and read a longer article as well as the need for a short, snappy service where you can find out what happened in the football last night very quickly without having to think too much.


Any last words of advice?
I think the thing that technology has brought us is a lot more flexibility in how you deal with stories so you can take them in all sorts of different ways. It also makes it much more of a 24-hour a day job if you let it be that. I think it’s brought benefits but it’s brought disadvantages as well and one thing we still have to tackle is citizen-journalism. I think that’s an area we need to be a bit more sceptical about.