How did you end up at the editorial office of Volkskrant?
It all started with me being a researcher for Volkskrant correspondent Jan-Maarten Zegers in Brussels somewhere in the ’60s. That was semi-journalistic work. I was especially good at extracting information. Always with a smile and not too cheeky. At one point I met Jan van der Pluijm, the editor-in-chief of Volkskrant back then. Immediately him and me could get along very well. After a week they wanted me to come by for a job in Amsterdam. I got hired as an assistant. There were also positions with management, but I definitely did not want that. I wanted to wear some cool jeans and walk barefoot. No heels and a pleated skirt. I was a little bit provo-ish and stubborn, haha.
I wanted to wear some cool jeans and walk barefoot. No heels and a pleated skirt. I was a little bit provo-ish and stubborn, haha.
What did your work look like?
My work involved a lot of calling. My colleagues always told me I had a good telephone voice because I had a « soft g ». They thought that was charming. All-day long there were all kinds of questions and problems coming in that I had to solve. Many questions were about news, I transferred those to the most suited editor. Besides that, I guarded the editor-in-chief’s room so that no inconvenient people entered. Kept them out of the office with all kinds of nonsense, haha. The editor-in-chief also regularly asked me to go outside, to see where news could be obtained. I was a sort of news scout for our journalists. The Dam in the center of Amsterdam was good hunting ground. When I found something useful, I tipped the news service where they should go for the next scoop. Exciting times.
Which events do you remember most about your time at Volkskrant?
The election nights. These were very special. Joop den Uyl (PvdA foreman 1966 – 1986) always visited the Volkskrant with some politicians during these times. Our reporters then called me in advance with the question if there were enough crates of beer in house, haha. Our own journalists, of course, also walked around and tried to squeeze anything newsworthy out of the politicians. Sometimes our journalists were rather cheeky. One of them once said to Den Uyl: « Hey Joop, make sure that woman of yours is going to wear some better dresses. »
Furthermore, I remember my colleagues having drinks in Cafe Hesp around the corner. They always wanted me to come along because I knew a lot of things about everything that was going on at the office. Also a lot of classified things. Their tactic was to get me tipsy so I would become chatty. But I never joined, because I knew what they were up to, haha.
Their tactic was to get me tipsy so I would become chatty.
When did you leave Volkskrant and why?
In 1999 I left the newspaper, had the feeling I’ve been around long enough. The idea was to do something else with my life. From Volkskrant I received 3000 guilders and with that money I traveled through Australia and New Zealand, alone most of the time. I loved being autonomous and being able to determine where I slept and where I went. I always liked that in my work as well: making my own decisions. Never been a person for endless meetings and continuous consultation. Today, little has changed. I still decide what my days look like. Nobody tells me what to do. Lovely.