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PAUL JANSEN, THE TELEGRAPH

Paul Jansen, editor-in-chief of one of the largest newspapers in the Netherlands: De Telegraaf. From correspondent in Indonesia, to parliamentary reporter to editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Who helped this seasoned journalist to the top? Text: Mical Joseph
Image: De Telegraaf

What was your very first job?

“At a young age I walked, how appropriate, a paper route. That was a coincidence, because at that age (ed: 15 years old) I had no idea what I wanted to become and journalism did not occur to me. In primary school the teacher asked us what we wanted to become. I replied: I don't know, I am an 8 year old child. The teacher thought that was so smart that he gave me an essay assignment as punishment: why I should become a 'Professor of Don't Know'.”

How did you end up in your current job?

“During my studies in Political Science and Law, I discovered that I wanted to see a lot of the world. This made me decide to become a diplomat or journalist. I started in the 90's The Telegraph in the foreign editorial office, after which the Financial Telegraaf followed.

Who was your wheelbarrow in that?

“In the early days I was my own wheelbarrow, I did everything on my own and was curious and eager to learn. Later, in the time before I became editor-in-chief of The Telegraph was was Kees Lunshof my mentor. Kees was the one who brought me to The Hague after I had spent four years in Indonesia. At the time, he was deputy editor-in-chief and political commentator at heart of our newspaper. He taught me the tricks of the trade and how politicians are doing in The Hague. Due to Kees' sudden death, I succeeded him as political commentator.”

What is your greatest passion in your profession?

“Of all the journalistic events I have experienced, I found the correspondentship in Asia in the area where there was action to be the most enjoyable. In areas where there was a war or a disaster, for example, as a correspondent I was the ears and eyes of the newspaper. My passion is telling a story to Dutch people. The 2005 Tsunami was a human low point, but a journalistic high point. That sounds very harsh, but what I experienced there had to be told to the world. I have seen so many deaths because of this disaster. Enough bodies for the rest of my life, I told myself.”

What has been your biggest learning moment in your career?

"The biggest learning moment for me it is that you cannot plan things in life, because things often take an unexpected turn. This means you shouldn't be afraid to take the plunge every now and then and let everything go! When I was asked to become a correspondent in Indonesia, I only had 24 hours to decide: these are great moments. Dare to take on an adventure, it can bring you a lot.”

What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

“I would say to myself: enjoy the moment more. Because of my drive and ambition, I always looked ahead and enjoyed the moments in the now less. I used to climb the mountain and climb up on the way to the top, but didn't enjoy the view. I try to do that more, because once you get to the top, you want more again.”

Have you been a wheelbarrow for someone?

“I once helped someone to find their strength. I brought Wouter de Winther, the current political commentator for De Telegraaf, to the newspaper. He was first a spokesperson for a ministry and before that Wouter worked at BNR. I groomed him to become my successor as chief of the parliamentary editorial staff when I continued as a political commentator. A wheelbarrow Of course, it will only help you to the front door, you have to open it yourself. Wouter did a fantastic job.

I also hope to be a wheelbarrow for my children, but you only know afterwards whether that has been successful. By providing enough knowledge, I hope that they will make something beautiful out of it later.”