In no time at all, he became thoroughly acquainted with the university world and every department of the university knew his name.The coronavirus pandemic broke out just one month after his appointment, causing the editorial team to work from home for a large proportion of his term of office. He set to work with a great deal of energy all the same, often still present at the editorial office with a small team. On the first day of the first lockdown, he organised a crisis broadcast from the studios in Polak together with the Marketing and Communication department. Editor Tessa Hofland was thrown to the lions as a presenter, and from that day on we broadcasted live every day in the first weeks of the Covid crisis, with guests telling us how they reorganised their teaching and administrators giving the latest updates.

Server meltdown

Online vergadering corona maart 2020 met Arjan Paans als hoofdredacteur
One of the first online meetings with Arjan. Image credit: Tessa Hofland

The typical journalist was excellent at sniffing out news. At his insistence, editor Marko de Haan wrote an article about a possible coronavirus drug that was being developed at Erasmus MC. Immediately after it was published, the servers of the EM website went down because of the huge numbers of visitors from all over the world. It was the best-read article in EM’s history.

Editor-in-chief Wieneke Gunneweg is very grateful to Arjan for his role as interim editor-in-chief. “It’s bizarre that I got to know Arjan because of my own illness and have now had to say goodbye to him because of the same damn disease. I’m glad I got to tell him in person that I am grateful to him for the energetic way in which he led EM in my absence, especially because the coronavirus crisis broke out shortly after his arrival, and he had to steer an unknown editorial team from behind his computer screen. The confidence he gave me that the editors were in good hands with him – not to mention a little shaken up – did me a lot of good during my absence. When I came back, we worked together on the principle of communicating vessels for a while; I took a step forward and he took a step back, with a lot of patience and care, so that I could then seamlessly take over the task of editor-in-chief once again.”

Bigger picture

One of the highlights of his year at EM was the very last, double-thickness edition of our paper magazine. Although EM has not been published on paper since 2018, Arjan wanted to record the first coronavirus months at the university for posterity. “That was typical of Arjan: not only did he see news and stories everywhere, but also their importance and the bigger picture”, says senior editor Tim Ficheroux. “While the whole world was in their pyjamas on their webcams, he still managed to touch, motivate and inspire editors.”

He put in a great deal of effort to make this magazine possible: he arranged the money, coordinated stories, and during the festive Eurekaweek 2020, the magazine became a reality after a lot of blood, sweat and tears. The induction week was unexpectedly allowed to take place largely in person, and so the editors worked intensively together for the first time since March, making it a very special week.

New impetus

Ann O’Brien, director of the General Management Directorate and Arjan’s manager during his time at EM, thinks back on him with ‘great respect’. “I thought it was wonderful how he just picked things up when he came in. He gave excellent and expert guidance in what was nevertheless a crisis situation, during which Wieneke had to leave and coronavirus also came along. He kept calm and did not shy away from challenges. I found him very sincere and erudite, and he did it all with a great sense of humour. And he also provided new impetus: he saw opportunities everywhere, such as the daily broadcasts.”

“Warm, friendly and relaxed, but also professional and focused”, is the verdict of Gabriele Jacobs, chairman of the editorial board during Arjan’s period at EM. “He had a strong sense of journalistic independence and could be quite stubborn, but also had an eye for the needs of his environment. We often exchanged confidential information via the app during the coronavirus period, in his perfect German! I admired how much he took responsibility for EM, while also making it clear that he was only there in an interim role and that Wieneke was still in control.”

Long career

In addition to being editor-in-chief of EM, Arjan’s long journalistic career included the role of deputy editor-in-chief of the AD newspaper and editor-in-chief at Metro. Since 2018, he was one of the founders and journalistic leaders of the online medium Innovation Origins, a platform on technology and innovation.

At the beginning of 2022, he started working as editor-in-chief with the colleagues of the Amsterdam university magazine Folia. However, after four months he was diagnosed with cancer and was unable to continue his work. Arjan reached the age of 53.