“The circumstances have changed”

A Q&A with Patrick Meershoek about his view on journalism and the way it has changed since he started his 32-year long career as a journalist

By Shaquille Shaniqua Joy

Patrick Meershoek (56) has been working for several newspapers in the Netherlands, including the Goudsche Courant, where he started his career, the Haagsche Courant and Het Parool, where he has been working for 20 years this year. He started his career in the eighties and a lot has changed since then.

How did you get into journalism?

I went to a school for journalism in Utrecht and that was in the eighties, I graduated in 1988. Before that, I already knew that I wanted to do something with writing and journalism always had my interest. I’m a bit noisy by nature and one of the great things about journalism is that you can ask anything you want.

How has the industry changed since you started, specifically in the last 10 to 20 years?

For us, the main difference is that papers don’t sell as much anymore. So, there are less
journalists at newspapers and less money. At my former employer, we had 200 journalists working there and now at Het Parool we have 60, I think. With less people, you have to cover more ground. This change has a lot to do with the possibility for people to get their news from everywhere, so less people are willing to pay for journalism.

How does social media influence your work now in comparison to your early days?

I consider myself a little bit of an old school journalist. So, I try to not be influenced too much by Twitter and other social media because I think that’s a bit of a distorted view on society. I try to talk to people and ask them how and what they are doing while I see that around me sometimes one tweet can be the basis for an article and no-one has been spoken to for that article. That’s not my kind of journalism but it is still very important because it is very fast and that is what our website aims to be.

If you would be as young as you were when you started in journalism, would you still be attracted to being a journalist today?

One of the things of this time, I think, is that you have to be a presenter as well. You have a little shop and you have to promote that shop. I see that a lot on social media, when people write a story they make a tweet about it and when someone says something nice about it they retweet it and that’s all part of being the shopkeeper. I wasn’t raised that way in journalism but I think it’s a general thing that everyone has a shop right now and is promoting their own article in life. It’s just a way of the world right now. I like the understatement and the quietness of the job. For me, it’s enough to write the article and see it in the paper. I don’t need to promote myself, it’s not my
style. So to answer your question, it would be hard for me to start right now.