‘At some point people might long back to traditional journalism’

By Julia van den Muijsenberg

After he finished the school for journalism in 1995, Mark de Bruijn (48) started as an editor at the NOS, the biggest news organization of the Netherlands. Soon after he became a reporter for EenVandaag, a current affair show where he has been working for over twenty years now. Easy to say Mark de Bruijn is a traditional journalist. As an old hand in the field, he explains his views on the ever-changing media landscape.

What is the biggest difference in the media field today, compared to when you first started working as a journalist?
“The traditional journalist was almighty when it comes to the supply of news. We as journalists saw it as our responsibility to cater the passive public of all that was important in the world. All that we decided was important. Now news consumers desire a news supply that is customized to their interest and their specific needs. That is because there is so much content, all the time, everywhere, so they will pick and choose. This makes specialists more and more relevant: journalists that know all about a certain topic. Because people will only consume quality journalism when it is within a specific field of interest.”

Are you such a specialist?
“No. I am a generalist. Give me a topic I don’t know anything about today, by tomorrow I will know enough to give you a news item. And the day after tomorrow, well, I will most likely forget about it again. That’s my job.” 

Will you as generalist survive then?
“For now, yes. Don’t forget that though things are changing, that doesn’t mean traditional current affair shows are dead already.”

And in the future?
“Who knows… Maybe because of all the news out there, all the overwhelming clutter, people will look for filters again. A counter reaction if you will. People might look for a trustworthy name again to make sense of it all. The generalist can be the filter.”

You mention there is more news coverage, do you think the workload is bigger?
“A journalist always feel like the workload is big. Journalists always complain. When I started I had maybe four days to work on an item where I now have two days, sometimes even just one. But is the workload bigger then? Not necessarily. Because it also means the items are shorter now. And the sources are way more accessible. So yes, quantitively the workload rises, but does it really in effort? I actually do not think so.”

So, did the quality of your items become less?
“No. but as I am more experienced it just costs me less time and effort to produce a good item. In all fairness, maybe we do expect a little less from an item. It is all quicker and stories are more emotion driven.” 

Emotion driven?
“Yes, you have to compete with all the emotional entertainment news online, so maybe the choice is not always the balanced fair hearing anymore. But then again, people might get sick of all the clutter. They do not want to constantly check if it is fake news. So, a ‘counter movement’ might be sparked. People might seek for a reliable medium again, one that does the fact checking for them.”

You mentioned a counter movement of people that long back to the traditional journalists twice now. Coming from a generalist, an old hand in the profession, isn’t that just wishful thinking?
“Yes. Yes, it is.”

How do you actually feel about the changing news consumption?
“Times are tense. No one knows what will happen to the traditional media. It makes me alert. I need to question if I can still find work in the traditional field. I need to constantly think of where to put my stories, where to find work. I could otherwise spend that time finding scoops and new sources.”