Michiel Couzy: “This isn’t healthy criticism towards journalists anymore, it’s violence”

Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Het Parool, Michiel Couzy, has over twenty years of experience as a journalist. He believes mainstream media is more important than ever, but at the same time, the behaviour towards journalists has changed.

How has journalism as a profession changed since you started?
It hasn’t happened to me, but there have been times when journalists have been attacked during work. Before, the attacks were made by criminal organizations, but now it’s also done by regular people on the street. That has changed a lot during the last five years.

Why do you think so?
I think the society is changing in that direction. You see that the trust in politics, in science, in universities, and in journalism, is decreasing.

It is about distrust?
Yes. You can also see it during the pandemic, people don’t trust the scientists saying it is a dangerous virus. I think it is good that people are critical to what they read, but this is not healthy criticism anymore, it’s violence.

Do you think the media itself plays a part in the distrust?
During the years it has certainly been made mistakes in journalism, but in general I think that the standard of the profession is very high. I believe that what you read in the newspapers, is still the truth. I think social media is the main strength behind the movement of disbelief. There is so much fake news and theories on social media, that the role of mainstream media is more important than ever.

As an editor, how do you see the future of journalism?
Well, that is difficult because it changes so quickly. I am very optimistic about the future. I believe that due to all the different movements in society, people need filter and someone they trust, to tell them what is going on in the world. Therefore, I think that the role of trusted journalism is going to grow.

Do you think people will stay with the newspapers?
That was what I was going to say. We need to make sure they stay with us and are ready to pay for it.

And how will you do that?
You have to be different. Twenty years ago, newspapers where more the same, now we are trying to distinguish ourselves from one another. If we do that, I am quite sure that people will pay for it, because we are giving them news and stories that they won’t find anywhere else.