Gorkana meets…Jelle Maasbach and BNR Nieuwsradio
You studied media, information and communications at university and wrote your dissertation on economic infographics. How, and why, did you decide to specialise in financial journalism?
That happened by chance, in a similar way to how I ended up in journalism in the first place. I was hopeless at economics in secondary school, and even had to retake the exam. After obtaining my degree, I decided to study real estate. It proved to be really disappointing as I didn’t like it at all, and chose to study a broad media degree instead.
Through contacts within the media industry, I got an internship at RTL Z, where I discovered my love for journalism. Those years were really exciting, because it was just after the fall of Lehman Brothers and the global financial crisis. It was at RTL Z where I started to grow an interest in economic news and eventually specialised in financial journalism.
What was it like to start your career as a journalist at RTL Z?
It was quite difficult in the beginning, because as a newbie I didn’t yet know how everything worked. I learned a lot from my colleagues, such as my editor. Also, stock exchange commentators, like Jacob Schoenmaker and Mathijs Bouman, did a great job coaching me. I also educated myself through reading huge amounts of literature, and eventually learned most (of what I’ve learnt) on the job.
You currently work for BNR Nieuwsradio. What is the biggest difference between working for a TV and a radio broadcaster? How do you prepare news now you are not able to use images and video in the same way?
To use a cliché: radio is much faster than television. You receive breaking news, such as Imtech being declared bankrupt, the acquisition of BG by Shell being approved etc, and, in a manner of speaking, you can report about this in a couple of seconds.
In television you are bound by time slots and other formats. I still absolutely love television, but because I appreciate the speed of journalism, I have chosen radio. Apart from that, I think BNR Nieuwsradio is an extremely good broadcaster. In television you can, however, use images that really add to the story. This makes the job a lot easier, whereas in radio you need to focus more on telling the story.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
My day starts at 4.30am and ends at 1.30pm. My alarm goes off at around 3.45am, which meant that I had to completely change my rhythm when I took on my current role. I start my shift by checking my Reuters terminal: What happened on Wall Street? What funds stand out? What happened at the Exchange – during and after trading hours? I read a lot, watch CNBC reports, and find out how the trading in the Asian stock market has started off. I then start reporting slightly after 6am, until the start of the lunch programme.
You started your journalism career during the financial crisis. How do you look back on the crisis? And has your perception of the crisis changed since then?
I recently watched the movie ‘The Big Short’, which shows how none of us saw the problems coming, and maybe even that we haven’t learned anything from the crisis. The problems in the American housing market, the messy mortgages that were resold… This apparently caused the start of the worldwide crisis. The movie describes the greed and naïve behaviour of bankers. I wonder if anything has changed nowadays.
Recently, you changed roles from business reporter to market reporter. What big changes have you experienced? How did you have to prepare yourself for your new role?
I am now more frequently on the radio and even on the morning show, which is the flagship news programme of BNR Nieuwsradio. I find it an enormous honour, and see it as a great compliment that our editor-in-chief Sjors Fröhlich has so much a trust in me. It feels like I have been working as a journalist for many years, even though I am only 27 years old. I don’t act any differently to how I did before, even though you have to be more careful about what you say. If you talk about certain stocks, you have to be cautious about your statements. I don’t want to make my role appear any bigger than it is, but we are talking about millions in market value that you might influence with (possibly wrong) information.
Do you have a social media strategy?
For me, Facebook is for sharing pictures of holidays and day trips. Twitter is for sharing news items, but I have to confess that I have the worst Twitter strategy. I am often too busy with work and spend a great amount of time on the broadcast. I find myself not having time to use it, but lately I try to tweet news from the radio shows. Can I take the opportunity to advertise a bit? You can follow me @JMaasbach.
How can PRs help you and your colleagues with content and what is the best way for them to approach you?
I am always in touch with several PR agencies, which works really well! I do like personal contact at first, so no direct email, but rather a conversation over the phone. After that first meeting, we both know more about each other and can continue conversing via email.
And finally, what is the most memorable story that you have reported on?
That is a difficult one, like having to say what your favourite movie is. Is it the Godfather, or is there a better movie? Looking at my own news stories, I really enjoyed reporting about how the previous owner and founder of the Dutch car insurance company Route Mobiel, Michiel Muller, wanted to buy his ‘baby’ back. With the nationalisation of the bank and insurance company SNS Reaal, who bought Route Mobiel in 2006, the Dutch government gained a brand and an extensive insurance company. However, the government already owned its competitor ANWB. Muller didn’t want Route Mobiel to be state-owned, and decided to buy it back.
Personally, the downfall of Imtech was the most exciting and bizarre topic, or the gigantic stock fall of Delta Lloyd in the stock market. Those are the kind of stories I want to know more about.
Jelle was interviewed by Gorkana’s Anna Masuku.