Magazines in danger
Every day, the editorial staff at the UK wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A weekly look behind the scenes.
Dutch university publications are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their independence. Lars de Kruijff (master student Journalism and New Media at the University of Leiden) wrote a master thesis several years ago that showed that five of the publications can be considered watchdogs (the UK falls into this category according to him), five yappers (all bark but no bite), and three ‘pooches’.
This sometimes difficult relationship also applies to the independent university of applied sciences publications, and this week was no different. Sense, the magazine published by the HAN University of Applied Sciences, will cease to exist. It will be absorbed into a new medium, one that is not independent.
Former Sense editor Han Geurts (1999 – 2015) bemoans the situation. We hereby publish his open letter that appeared in Vox, the Radboud University Nijmegen’s magazine.
The effort to bring more structure and unity to the existing jungle of communication tools at the HAN should be fully supported. Although it seems utopian to think that the intensely diverse target groups (students, employees, outsiders, SMEs, interns, researchers, educators) are served by just one single form of communication.
The GIS screens, HANovatie, and HANblad mentioned in the Vox article (‘HAN stopt met magazine Sense‘) fall under the department of Marketing, Communication, and Information (MCV).
However, Sense has a separate status at the university of applied sciences and has an independent set of editors – which has been set down in the editorial statutes. But that is exactly the concept’s weakness: the MCV department claims all control of the content when that used to be the responsibility of the Board of Directors, with the organisational responsibility resting on the Service Company’s shoulders.
MCV decides on its own benefits. The project leader does the same thing and decides on how the project group is populated together with the client.
It has already been established in the concept plan that Sense will be absorbed into the new medium, which will not be independent. One does not need to be psychic to know what will happen: a beautifully designed PR medium full of laudatory stories, promising projects, brilliant graduates, valued lectorships, unique scoops, all happening at a fantastic university (‘It’s great, period.’). No more independent analyses, no more critical opinions, no more other side of the story. His Master’s Voice.
In all the years of HAN’s existence (since 1996,) Sensor/Sense has always had an independent position. This only ever led to conflicts after publication; no pain, no gain. However, never has any Board of Directors questioned our independence. Independent reporting is indispensable to any institute of higher education: it keeps the university sharp and transparent and contributes to the creation of independent and critical professionals.
Or as current board president Kees Boele said in a conversation with yours truly and the president of the editorial board: ‘I can’t imagine the HAN without an independent medium.’
High time for content responsibility to be returned to where it belongs, and where it has been all these years. Exit MCV, it’s the Board of Directors’ move.