Thursday, January 12, 2017
During the Instagram Takeover in 2016, we gave kids and youngsters the opportunity to be a journalist for a day. During EU conferences they got the chance to interview high level decision makers such as Bussemaker, Lagarde, Plasterk and Dijsselbloem. Of course the "buzz" around these institutional characters made an impact on the kids, but in my experience, it were the journalists in particular who inspired the kids with stories about their work.

Written by Myrna Lemmen

One of these stories was an interview with a camera man from Belgium. He is a bit of an elderly and "old fashioned" journalist. He works alone, always with his camera, traveling through Europe, bringing the news up close. He is hardcore. He does not work from his computer; he likes to be at the front line with his camera, and he doesn't care so much about Twitter or Instagram. He laughed a little when the kids asked his account details. He was not that type of journalist.

Doing what he does, he explained, he gets to see and experience the news first hand and up close. And that's not always easy. He travels a lot and he does not see his family on a regular basis. But he is passionate about his work, so he got used to it.

The kids asked him when he does not like his job. He answered that it's difficult when he witnesses dramatic events, like the attacks that had taken place in Brussels and Paris. As a journalist he was one of the first on the scene, witnessing the tense aftermath. He was aware that he was speaking to children, so he didn’t go into detail about what he saw and experienced there. But the way he spoke was real and authentic. The expression on his face and the tone of his voice made us all realize, and feel, that this was not an easy job. The kids became a bit quiet, but were also eager to continue speaking to him.

Of course the children had heard about the attacks in Brussels and Paris. But seeing a face of a journalist who actually made it possible for them to hear about these attacks made an impression. They realized now that being a journalist like him is not an easy job, it is sometimes hard and scary because the journalist witnesses everyting with his own eyes and through his own camera.

His story also made an impression on me. At first I saw this cool "nobody can impress me" kind of man. He looked a bit sad and alone in this big and buzzing hallway full of journalists and suited-up politicians: suddenly there was a man, in jeans, with a camera, and I believe he was eating his sandwich rapped in a plastic sandwich bag. I do not think he was very used to kids, he was slightly awkward. But that also meant he gave the kids straightforward answers, which I really appreciated.

When he spoke about Brussels and Paris, I really sensed the emotion that he felt. I pictured him with his camera in Brussels at the airport shortly after the bomb explosion. People panicking. The smell of smoke. People in shock, doctors and nurses running around, alarms going off... And him there, with his camera, experiencing it all, trying to get it on camera so that other people get informed on what happened, and what is going on. Serving society; no time to mourn.

It made me feel a little useless at the same time. "What am I doing?", I thought in a split second? But then I saw that the kids were as inspired. I realized that it is not only wonderful to support journalists working in difficult situations all around the world, but also to facilitate this opportunity for kids to understand what it takes to be a journalist. So they do not take for granted what they see on the news. At the end of the day, the kids reflected that they want to become a journalist.