Wieneke Gunneweg_2_9.2023
Wieneke Gunneweg is editor-in-chief of EM. Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

It happened when students and members of staff had family and friends who were the victims of an earthquake, first in Turkey and Syria and later in Morocco as well.

Or when the horrific shooting occurred at Erasmus MC at the end of September, in which one of Erasmus’ own students shot and killed two neighbours and then later a lecturer.

And it’s happening with the atrocities taking place in Israel and Palestine in recent months, which have emotionally affected us all and are dividing the university community.

Not to mention the political and societal division here in the Netherlands, which have also led to protests at the university, including the occupation of buildings, and to many discussions in lecture halls about pronouns and decolonising the curriculum.

In 2023, the global news hit close to home – literally. And EM has a duty to report on these things in our own way, in keeping with our role as the university’s independent journalistic platform.

When this type of major event occurs, EM strives to focus on the small (local) scale. We try to report on what is relevant for the campus and to offer space for first-person accounts. And to keep a balanced perspective without losing sight of the human aspect.

The EM editorial staff has struggled with these issues; we are people and citizens of this world, too. Yet we also feel a responsibility to ensure reliable and impartial reporting (I’m not saying fully neutral or objective: we know such a thing is impossible). This is more important now than ever. It entails lots of internal discussions, in which we carefully consider what we report, the words we choose and the images we use. Nothing happens without thought.

And that care is vital, because it is not only global news that is forcing its way into the EM newsroom. As journalists, we increasingly find ourselves the target of the mistrust floating around in society these days.

Impartiality no longer seems to be an option. People demand that EM takes a stance for or against an issue, be sure not to give certain opinions a platform and avoid being overly critical of – or take pains to challenge – institutions. And if we don’t, reproaches will be hurled our way.

For a long time, I thought this was simply something journalists had to get used to: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”, an older journalist once told me.

In the past year, however, I’ve learned to set boundaries. Criticism of EM is allowed (and in fact necessary); it’s all right to be angry about an article. But accusing the EM editorial staff of all kinds of things (I’ll spare you the details), without asking a single question about our motivations, crosses a boundary.

And so, dear reader, you are once again welcome to visit the newsroom in 2024 (but be sure to make an appointment first) and our inbox is open to sharply worded opinion pieces (though we sometimes say no). But should you find yourself worked up about an article in EM: before you react, ask us about the choices that led to that article. I promise that in the year ahead, EM will be more transparent than ever about what goes on behind the scenes. Heat or no heat.