“The news cycle is impossible to shake off”

Written by Romy Caverlé

Journalism has changed due to various factors, but how do journalists experience these changes? I asked Bas Blokker (55), who was born and raised in Amsterdam. Since July 2018, he lives in Washington DC where he is based as the US correspondent for all outlets for NRC Media and has worked as a journalist since April 1991.

Has your daily workload changed over the last decades?
In all of these years I’ve seen huge changes in journalism in general and in my own jobs at NRC. Now all activities are far more integrated: there is one staff of NRC, making stories for all outlets. Because there are no limits to space online and because there is a perpetual deadline, it means that I can get to work every hour of the day. So I would say my workload probably has doubled.”

How has the news media industry affected your daily work?
“My daily work is highly affected by the news media industry. My smartphone is riddled with news apps, alerts are bleeping every hour of the day. The news cycle is impossible to shake off. Just 15 minutes ago I received an alert from the Wall Street Journal that made me call the Amsterdam office to discuss it.”

Do you see a growing job insecurity within the field? And what do you think is a possible solution?
“Very much so. Cost cuts have gotten worse since the last ten years. Almost every foreign correspondent in the last ten years had to break their contract with NRC Media and start out all over again as a freelancer. I know freelancers that are being paid less now than they were ten years ago. It is hard to see a solution to that development, as it is very profitable from the company’s perspective. There is less risk for the employer, less cost. A general strike of freelancers might help – but would they?”

What is your view on the future of journalism?
“Newspapers, the ‘slowest’ news medium compared to radio or tv, need to take their reporting a step further. They need to analyze instead of taking note. They need to discover instead of report. For the near future it might mean that newspapers will get one more step further away from factual information. Especially if every news organization will follow suit, the landscape of the media will be a downtrodden path. There is one way out, and that might be the bright future for journalism. News organizations can specialize in investigative journalism and in project-type features.”

In what kind of way has digitalisation and globalisation changed journalism? How did you experience this development?
“Simply put, it has affected each and every aspect of my job. If I want to reach out to somebody I send them an email, a dm via Twitter, or a message through Facebook or LinkedIn. It is so much easier to find and communicate with people. You can actually be an investigative reporter and never leave your desk. These changes are momentous.”