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23/08/2019 Communication Science news and articles

BNR: Backstage with the Chief

Medium Editor-in-Chief Thomas Korver started his internship at BNR Nieuwsradio this year, a very special feat. Thomas is working right along the most powerful people of the Netherlands, but that’s quite normal.


Thomas Korver, also known as Medium’s beloved incumbent Editor-in-Chief, is currently working as the first ever intern at BNR Nieuwsradio’s office in Den Haag. This has even led to some exciting social connections in the world of journalism, such as developing the power to reach Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte through a single phone call.

In his hunt for an internship, Thomas looked through BNR’s online job listings one day. Knowing their impeccable reputation as a nationally respected broadcasting station, he decided to send in his application. Shortly after he clicked send, he was invited for an in-person interview, an occurrence that he describes as “unexpected, but good… good”. For the Christmas holidays, the Korver family flew to Stockholm. As soon as Thomas stepped off the plane, he received an email. The sweet sound of employment called his name.

Inside BNR
BNR in Den Haag is situated deep in the thick of the Dutch political arena. The office is relatively small, but housed in a building known as the Press Tower, right next to the Tweede Kamer (Parliament). A building of six to seven storeys high, each floor of the press tower houses a different media outlet. Three radio studios are on the 4th storey, and these are shared by BNR, NPO Radio 1, and others. Next to the studios is the editorial floor consisting of five desks, two BNR correspondents, and one Mediagroep European news correspondent.

Due to the size, he describes his colleagues and supervisors as accessible, and the atmosphere intimate. However, what caught Thomas off guard was how open the Tweede Kamer is to journalists, with MEP office doors often open for any journalist to walk through for a quick coffee, chat, or interview. The Dutch government functions through a coalition system, with 150 members, including the president Khadija Arib. Just the day before our interview, Thomas actually had the honour of recording an episode of the BNR podcast with her.

Thomas’ responsibilities
Thomas’ function in the office is relatively new, as the commencement of the podcast division coincided with the start of his internship. His main focus is on producing political podcasts, which entails selecting topics, writing scripts, editing audio clips, and uploading the final product to iTunes and Spotify. “I don’t get treated like I’m just an intern, I’m taken seriously as a journalist”, he says, reflecting on the flexibility and opportunities for initiative that he is able to experience while navigating previously uncharted waters for BNR. It is a unique working environment even for journalists, as they have direct access to the chambers of the Parliament and the offices of the MEPs. Every day is different and hectic in its own.

Recordings usually take place on Thursday afternoons as the agenda of the Tweede Kamer is full from Tuesday to Thursday, meaning that there is not much activity on remaining days. The most exciting day is Tuesday, when the voting happens. Every MEP must be present on Tuesdays. The Tweede Kamer is full to the brim, says Thomas, with all the media present as well. On Fridays, Rutte holds a weekly press meeting, an event at which Thomas was able to sip a cappuccino while holding a casual conversation with one of the most powerful people in the Netherlands. He plans to spend more time with Rutte in the future and even invite him to the podcast. Ultimately, the schedule of the newsroom revolves much around the rhythm and agenda of the Tweede Kamer’s plenary room. The impact of politics on media and vice versa, is glaringly obvious in BNR Den Haag. However, Thomas observes that the media is often more responsive to politics in his line of work, and that it is never an entirely fixed dynamic.

…, an event at which Thomas was able to sip a cappuccino while holding a casual conversation with one of the most powerful people in the Netherlands

BNR and podcasting
When asked to compare radio and podcasting, Thomas reflects that in live radio, the context is much more urgent. One would hunt for quotes with the microphone, trying to elicit the best response within a limited time frame. However, the podcast opens up room for editing and longer responses.

Politicians are also more open to saying yes to podcast recordings as they are more rewarding. Podcasts are longer, allowing much more time for providing anecdotes, expressing their perspectives, and the background of politics. Thomas thinks that podcasts provide good insights on the functioning of democracy in a more intimate format. For example, he recalled fondly a refreshing discussion on the state of liberalism in democracy between a few members of Parliament.

Keeping yourself grounded
Ultimately, journalism at BNR is a special environment. Thomas has to remind himself that he is a journalist and is part of keeping politicians accountable. He is really enjoying meeting so many of the intelligent, interesting people who run the Netherlands, while having to remind himself to stay grounded and objective about their work. Apart from making amazing connections, Thomas loves being close to the radio making process. He views it as “magical”, and was pleasantly surprised at how close he has become to the raw production process. There is so much constantly happening and everything can be potential news.

It is difficult and unique, as he now realizes how crucial the role of the journalist is in deciding what news is and is not. When asked about his future aspirations, Thomas wishes to first pay off his student debts, and then work in the field of political journalism. Hopefully, we will see the Korver name in future Dutch news and even beyond.

Cover: Medium Magazine / Final editor: Kyle Hassing

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