Indra De Witte
Editor-in-chief Het Belang van Limburg
Het Belang van Limburg is the largest regional newspaper in Flanders. It looks at everything that happens in the region of Belgian Limburg and in the world. The newspaper plays a strong connecting role in the Limburg community.
Daily readership print
Daily readership online
Number of subscribers
(print + digital) 82.998
Van moord tot verdict, Waar is Elke Wevers?, HBVL Sportcast, Limpop & In de ban van de wolf
For the newsroom, ‘digital first’ was suddenly more than just a marketing term in 2020. The journalists were on it right away. And readers followed, in search of reliability.
Proud. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I look back on the past Covid year Everyone, from the first to the last link in the journalistic process, has learned to work differently from one day to the next. The content we made during the first year of the pandemic was brilliant, and the way in which we made it was even better. Successive lockdowns forced us to accelerate our digital transformation. This was necessary just to survive. Suddenly our dear editorial groups and conferences were torn apart and locked away in separate boxes, barely visible on Zoom and Teams screens.
But that didn’t break us. Quite the opposite, in fact.
From journalists and sub-editors to page designers and photographers, from news managers to reception: we all went in search of new skills and knowledge. We learned and adapted. We dragged around screens and office chairs and talked about how best to work from our living rooms. And yes, we came up against obstacles. Suddenly, “digital first” was more than just a marketing term; it was necessary if we were to do our work. Speed dates with our digital boys and girls followed. The digital transformation taking place everywhere was now being driven from the ground. More possibilities, simpler tools, better ways of consulting, faster platforms, more data analysis: we wanted it all and we wanted it now.
After a year of unprecedented flexibility and – to use that ugly word – agility, we can say we did a hell of a job. Online and in print. Not a day has gone by without a paper in the letterbox of each of our subscribers. Our digital publications were an anchor for our readers. And we did it all from our homes. If you’d told our editors 18 months ago that this would be the situation, they would have laughed (or cried). But we still did it.
This is why we got into journalism. We’ve informed people and provided them with context in particularly difficult circumstances. Journalism during a pandemic is a bit like during a war: at times like this, there is greater need than ever for reliable information. That’s demonstrated by people’s media and reading habits during this crisis year. Our readers have tested and approved our work, and they have followed us into the digital world.
Undoubtedly, Covid-19 will continue to have an impact on our job. By embracing new journalistic platforms, we are more accessible than ever; we have never reached so many people. Which is great. But it’s also true for the countless vloggers and bloggers, twittering politicians and armchair journalists. They profit equally from this digital acceleration, making the need for independent, reliable journalism even greater. That’s the key to this story: we have adapted to the new normal, but the heart of our trade remains the same.