Lessons From a Dutch Correspondent

October 3, 2011

Name: Herman Stam

Function: Dutch EU-Correspondent since June 2009

Media: Newspaper, De Telegraaf


Dutch civil servants in Brussels.


“I find these civil servants to be very helpful, because they do a lot of preparation work for for example European summits or meetings of the Council of Ministers. Because of this, they often know in advance the main themes of the summits and also the main viewpoints of the actors involved. When you do your job right, it is sometimes possible to get this information before these summits starts, so you can already write a story about what the main difficulties are going to be, what the arguments are going to be and where the parties involved can possibly find consensus.”


“Furthermore, it can also be good if you are able to talk to civil servants from other influential countries, for example Germany and France. Sometimes they will talk to you, sometimes they will not, it depends. My advantage is that they know De Telegraaf is a big Dutch newspaper, so If they want their viewpoints to be heard in the Netherlands they will often talk to me. But most of the time this will only happen if that is in their self-interest, of course. They can then use the Dutch media for example to leak some information in order to put the Dutch government under pressure.”


The Dutch embassy.


“Another good source is the Dutch embassy. They always hold press briefings when an important summits, say for example between the ministers of Justice, is coming up. This helps you to get informed in advance, which is especially useful because many of these meetings go very into detail. As a EU-correspondent it is impossible to know everything about every subject, so press briefings in which technicalities and other details are explained can be extremely helpful.”


European parliamentarians, think tanks, experts.


“MEP’s are often very willing to talk to the media because in general, they get very little attention from the press. Especially now, when a lot of big decisions are being made on an intergovernmental bases by the member states they sometimes feel left behind which can stimulate them to talk even a bit more. There are some very good MEP’s in the parliament which can be very helpful for some articles.”


“I also find think thanks and experts to be good sources. They often have a bit less self interest in stories, which makes the article more balanced. Especially now, when with for example Greece so many things are at stake.”


Press releases and press conferences.


“The amount of press releases that I get is enormous. And there is a lot of rubbish in there which goes directly into the trash can, for example all decisions made by the European Parliament or opinions by different coalitions on certain subjects. However, sometimes it can be useful, when you are in a hurry and you need to get a good quote.”


“Press conferences are something different. As a Dutch journalist, I often have to attend the press conferences of the Dutch politicians involved, because that is what the people back home want to read. However, I sometimes wish I could also go to other press meetings or watch them back on the internet, but because of the deadlines there is often no time.”

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