Editorial De Telegraaf no longer has confidence in the management

The appointment of two Telegrapheditors-in-chief, Kamran Ullah and Esther Wemmers, as successors to Paul Jansen last month led to the loss of confidence in the management of publisher Mediahuis Nederland. A necessary two-thirds majority passed a motion to that effect in an editorial meeting on Thursday, those involved confirm.

“The appointment procedure has gone off the rails,” admits director Rien van Beemen in a response. “Like the editorial board, we as the Board of Directors have tried to ensure that this is done in an orderly manner. This harms De Telegraaf, I am responsible and deeply regret the way in which this process is being interpreted.” It does not matter that a motion has no statutory consequences for the management. I take this very seriously.” He doesn’t get up. Van Beemen has been leading Mediahuis Netherlands since 2019. Before that he was director of NRC Media, also part of the Mediahuis concern.

The motion accuses the management of ignoring a negative advice about the editor-in-chief duo. The editorial board only has an advisory role, the management appoints in consultation with the departing editor-in-chief. Also, according to the motion, “indecent” dealings with a deputy editor-in-chief, Wim Hoogland. He will leave the editors-in-chief when the duo starts on June 1. Van Beemen does not want to elaborate on this matter, „the respect for Wim is enormous and he will still play a central role. This surprises me.”

The appointment of Ullah (39) and Wemmers (48) remains in effect, he says. “That dynamic has to work. In our view, there is no room for a deputy.” Van Beemen does keep open the possibility that they “will come to a different insight in the long term”, but “I’m not about that”.

Chairman Mascha de Jong of the editorial board does not go into detail about the negative advice, but says that the journalistic record of the duo has something to do with it. Both have had only managerial roles. She does not want to say whether the objection applies specifically to one of the two. “This duo now needs us to continue making the newspaper and stories for the website, podcast, and video. But we blame the management for not seeing what the consequences of ignoring a negative advice are.” De Jong says it is time for more input from the editors. A second adopted motion, on renegotiation of the statute, should lead to more say. Van Beemen: “I am not going to anticipate that.”

This harms De Telegraaf, I am responsible

Rien van Beemen Media House NL

Part of the dissatisfaction could be traced back to the legacy of eight years of Paul Jansen, the outgoing editor-in-chief. Wemmers, but also Ullah as deputy since 2020, would embody a continuation of Jansen’s policy, which some consider directive. In it, the monitoring of journalistic quality was placed with the centralized news management, which Wemmers led. According to three departed Telegraaf journalists, who themselves worked “finely” with her, she was able to waltz over reporters. She did not want to respond, she said earlier this month.

De Telegraaf currently has a circulation of more than 400,000, according to Mediahuis. The professionalization process by Jansen is widely praised, as is the continuous hammering on basic principles such as hearing both sides. For example, it had to be prevented that stories did not make it to the end of the news day because they were checked by other media.

But Jansen, who will become a US correspondent on June 1, “did not win the popularity award,” says a former colleague. The culture under his predecessor, the impulsive, popular Sjuul Paradijs, was more ‘Amsterdam’: blunt, direct, but also warm and homely. Editors were not “made miserable,” says a journalist who worked under both. Jansen brought a “culture shock”. An article two weeks ago on Villamedia, the independent medium of the journalists’ union NVJ, also sketched that picture. Jansen and the management declined to comment. Van Beemen now calls the negative qualifications “very unjustified”.

‘stockless newspaper’

Jansen says that De Telegraaf was “a priceless newspaper in decline” when he took office, he emails NRC. According to him, the digital modernization and professionalization were “accompanied by the necessary resistance” in which “a series of people changed roles or left”. But he states that he is “not deaf” to signals from the workplace, and sees that “some editorial staff are struggling with the changes”.

Read also: Esther Wemmers and Ullah Kamran will be the new editors-in-chief from The Telegraph

Editorial board chairman De Jong was said to have been told by Jansen last December not to use the word ‘culture of fear’. She had been approached about an editorial-wide email, seen by Villamedia, in which it was described that that characterization was mentioned by colleagues. According to Jansen, it is more nuanced. He asked the editorial board whether it believes that there is a culture of fear, “the answer was negative”. Then he insisted not to include that term in emails, which “lead a life of their own”. De Jong agrees with this lecture, she says.

The fact that Jansen is now going to the US is experienced by some as bitter, because he slimmed down the correspondent file. “There was only a reorganization in 2015 in which one correspondent switched to freelance,” says Jansen. In 2018, the America correspondent became a freelancer, but “that had to do with availability, not with cutbacks”.