By Hedwig Goudsmit
18 October 2020
Anniek van den Brand (53) has been a journalist for thirty years. She started her career working at Trouw and after twenty one years she transferred to AD. Now, she has been working as chief Reportage at Het Parool for almost a year. “Sometimes it feels like my job is supposed to be for three people instead of one.”
What has changed in journalism the last couple of years?
A lot. First of all, there are large cutbacks on newspapers, because people read less. This results in working with more freelancers instead of regular staff and that makes the job less personal. Secondly, media companies are expanding. It used to be only an editorial office for the newspaper. Now we have people working for the regular newspaper, the online version, the social media, marketing, etcetera… This all results in a less personal working environment. Next to this, back in the days we had a ‘monopoly’ on news. It was either watching the news at 8 PM or reading the newspapers. Now there are more substitutes and competition entering the market. At the moment I feel like someone who can’t stop saying ‘back in the days, it all used to be better’.
But did it really all used to be better?
No, I am exaggerating. One thing that has changed to our advantages is the ability to analyse data. Things like eye tracking and search engine optimization are very useful when you want to improve your writing skills. One time, my article was posted on the AD Facebook page. A colleague analysed the data and it seemed that the title was catchy and playful, so many people clicked on the link, but people stopped reading after a few paragraphs. We changed some words to match with the playful title and we saw the number of readers go way up!
What is the workload like in journalism?
The workload is extremely high. I sometimes feel like my job as a chief is supposed to be for three people instead of one. Also for freelancers and reporters the workload is as high as ever. News never stops, so if you want to work twenty four hours a day in journalism, you can. This can cause stress, because you feel like you should work all the time. I think young, new journalists are better in combining social activities and work. For example: we hired a new reporter and we asked him to work on Tuesday nights. He told us he was not able to work on Tuesdays, because he had volleyball training. I would never have said that, because I prioritize work, even though I would love to play sports like volleyball.
Is working in journalism worth that kind of stress?
Actually, I am still trying to figure that out. Maybe I should have chosen a different path, like screenwriting, where the deadlines aren’t that strict. Then again, journalism is fun! It is somewhat addictive as well. Everyday you get to learn new things. That is why so many people are still working in journalism. I guess you could call us a bunch of news junkies.
How do you manage all of the stress?
A lot of drinking. Just kidding. I try to go to sleep early, eat healthy foods and spend time with my family. And sometimes you just need to pull out the plug and force yourself to relax. Going on a holiday helps for example, especially when there is bad WiFi. And sometimes, working on an interesting article also helps. You just turn on the heating, make yourself some tea, get behind your laptop and start doing what you love: writing.