What a day! I got off the train just after noon and was thinking about what to do in the couple of hours I had free before meeting Christina and, as luck would have it, Maarten van Aalderen called. I knew catching up with him and learning about his work as a correspondent journalist for De Telegraaf wasn’t going to be easy. When he invited me over for lunch and informed me he was going to do a Skype interview in English after eating that I could assist to, of course I jumped at the chance.
So, we settled into his kitchen and I kept him company while he ate (I’d already had lunch on the train to save time). He made me a cup of coffee and off we went to his study.
(Paragraph missing. To be added at a later date to protect sources).
As correspondent for Turkey as well as Italy, Maarten has learned and knows a great deal about the country’s history and politics. In his lessons, he explained the great difficulties the nation has been going through due to the political power struggle between Fethullah Gülen Movement and the country’s government headed by President Edrogan. Once friends, the two were now archenemies and the government has even begun persecuting suspected sympathizers of the movement.
On today’s agenda, Maarten has succeeded in ………………………….and set up a Skype interview. Using a bit out-of-date Lenovo personal computer, he started typing away on the laptop keyboard answering emails, Facebook messages. I took advantage of this dead time and attention (as much as I could get of it, at any rate) and asked him a few questions about his work and profession.
How do you deal with deadlines at De Telegraaf? My paper likes to have articles sent by 5-6 pm. Although articles are for the following day, my paper only has two pages allotted to the Foreign Desk. That means only two pages are dedicated to the 15 correspondents working around the globe, including all pictures and ads. So, it’s always an issue of limited space.
How long are your articles and how often do you write for the paper? Usually my articles are 300 words, occasionally 450 but not often. It’s not a lot and you have to be quite concise. I write pretty much every day. I only take 4 weeks off in August and the last couple weeks of each year, even though I generally take my personal computer with me wherever I go and often end up writing.
How do you get your articles? How do you plan in advance if you write every day? I examine current news and propose articles, I never just send something in; each article has to be approved. At times, my ideas are turned down. We have a new digital system. The paper sends me this email (he shows it to me), I paste my article here and off it goes. I write for the printed version of De Telegraaf. Although I’ve tried suggesting articles for the online version as well, they’ve never really taken onto the idea.
Time passes and Maarten still hasn’t been accepted as a Skype contact and the interview cannot begin.
Although his stresses as time passes and nervously says he’s just wasting precious time he could be dedicating to transcribing another audio interview he’s done using his Samsung mobile phone, when asked if he’d prefer being an editor, he says he’d never want to be one and adds that Wires are under even more pressure to produce than journalists like him.
(Please note that names and key information are missing to protect sources. They’ll be added at a later date.)
Taking too long to be accepted as a contact for the interview, Maarten decides to call another contact. He looks him up in his mobile phone book. He calls him and the guy agrees to be interviewed in an hour’s time. It means we wait, but my gut instinct tells me it’ll be worth it. (As it turned out, boy was I right!). So as not to overlap interviews, he’s quick to cancel the appointment made through his first source. He calls De Telegraaf explaining the new situation and the editor asks for a picture. Maarten messages the interviewee and requests that he forwards one before they start the interview. We wait for the picture.
Maarten was still doing a PhD in Philosophy in the city of Florence when he started working for a small Protestant Dutch newspaper. In-depth insight to Italian politics made the job easy to get. Having gotten the list of Dutch correspondents for Italy at the Embassy of Holland and noticing that De Telegraaf didn’t have one, Maarten offered his services to the newspaper. He started working as their correspondent in November of 1997.
We’ve received a picture. As the paper always has issues about pixels, Maarten wants to be sure his paper approves it before logging onto Skype.
3 minutes remaining before the start of the interview.
Have you ever reached a deadline and not been satisfied with an article? Yes, I just deal with it. It stresses me, but I do the best I can.
We are nine minutes late. Maarten is frustrated about not being able to reach a free line at De Telegraaf and ask about the picture. Finally, the editor communicates that the picture’s not usable. They’ve found alternative pictures online but they can’t be used due to copyright laws.
Maarten decides he can wait no more and, finally, the Interview begins.