Liesbeth Van Impe
Editor-in-chief Het Nieuwsblad
Het Nieuwsblad is an accessible, broad-based newspaper. It follows current affairs from near and far and dares to take a stand. Het Nieuwsblad is a reliable source of information and a guide to life in today’s world.
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Slimmer Leven, De Stemmen van Assisen, Sjotcast, De Koers is van ons & Beestenklap
A revealing report on care homes was dismissed as ‘exaggerated’ by the minister at the start of 2020. The pandemic proved otherwise. Readers were happy with this sort of investigation – and with our puzzles.
Looking back on journalism in 2020 is to remember that there was a small part of the year when we weren’t talking about coronavirus. In January, Het Nieuwsblad brought out a major report into care homes, a dossier we’d spent six months working on. We exposed several problems. And, as usual, we provided an important service, with an unprecedented amount of data gathered on nursing homes in Flanders. The minister responsible dismissed these problems as exaggeration. Barely two months later, in the middle of the corona crisis, he had to explain why everything that could go wrong in a care home was going wrong. We are working on an update to the report now, one year and one pandemic later.
The combination of hard facts, extensive service and deep local roots is how we want to distinguish ourselves at Het Nieuwsblad. That was also our approach during the corona crisis. We developed a Corona Compass, in which we converted all the many regulations (which frequently changed) into a simple questionnaire, against which people could check their own behaviour. We were a guide in the crisis that was clearly appreciated by our readers. We’ve never before seen such growth.
The numbers prove it: constantly seeking reliable information about the virus, readers flocked to our paper, app and website. But we also fulfilled another role. The virus shut down just about everything that makes life fun, at least for a while. And our readers looked to us to fill that gap. With puzzles and relaxation. With stories that made them think of something else. Of sport, for example, always an important part of our newspaper. But how do you report on sport when there’s no sport being played, when stadiums are empty and races are cancelled? We quickly decided that we would continue to produce sports pages, with stories, retro pieces, the unexpected success of the Container Cup. Everything to keep serving our sports fans.
Corona forced us to be creative in all areas. In our reporting, where a single subject continued to dominate for so long. In our storytelling, with our summer series, which had to be made much closer to home than usual but which were still there. And in the way we worked. We missed each other and the shared creative process, but we still managed to make a newspaper, app and website every day.
We are proud too that we continued to work in depth, that we didn’t have to put the ongoing change processes on hold. Local news and sport switched to a digital first operation during lockdown, which was a real feat. We prepared a Slimmer Leven podcast. We designed a new magazine. None of this is easy when you can’t sit together, brainstorm together, gather round the drawing board together. But we still did it. And that ensures we are all set for a flying start after corona.