“Journalism is facing a challenge”

Written by Maxime Booi

Paul Houwkes (69) is a newspaper journalist by heart with a passion for his job. He shares his thoughts and angle on journalism back in the days, journalism now and journalism in the future. Journalist have become multifunctional and Paul notices the rise of the online news platforms.

‘Where did you learn the skills of a journalist?’

 ‘I started writing and sharing stories for my high school newspaper in Rotterdam ‘De Uilebalk’ in 1963. I didn’t study journalism, because that wasn’t common sense back in my days. I learned by doing, failing and trying again.

I worked for different newspapers in advertisement, news, scientific articles and I was the editor in chief for ‘De Haagsche Courant’. Since I stopped working at a newsroom, I have been the editor in chief and news reporter for the online news platform ‘Pijnacker-Nootdorp Actueel’ in my free time.

‘How do you think journalism and your workload have changed over the past years?’

‘I notice that the workload has increased, while a lot of news reporters have lost their job. Journalists became multifunctional, they work in all the different areas of a platform. It makes me sad to see an impoverishment in fact-checked local news. A lot of journalists use hack journalism now, meaning they just copy-paste a press release from one source. There was more time to check the news before.

At the same time, I think the professional journalism, whatever that is, has an important job to share more about the background and the stories behind the news. We receive news throughout the whole day now and the newspaper always comes a day later.

‘Sometimes I joke and say: “I should have picked another job.” Because even though my work for the platform is completely voluntary and fun, it requires a lot of hours and energy.

I also see that less and less people are reading newspapers, the advertisement market is declining and the interests of people is changing. Do you still read the newspaper?’

‘Yes, I do. What do you see and hope for the future?

‘As a newspaper journalist by heart, I’m especially interested in how the printed newspaper is developing. I think that printed newspapers may not be much longer around and that journalism will shift even more towards online. We’re not going to write on dead trees for the next 30 years, but people still want to receive good news and stories. Also, how can journalism still make money online? Not out of profit, but purely to maintain journalism.

And personally? My work for the news platform will slowly come to an end and I hopefully I’ll start writing my own book soon. My head is full of different ideas!’