»A web journalist is like a Swiss knife«

Foto: osebni arhiv

Interview with Louis-Paul Eggen, DH.be

Jamison Lins

Sometimes it can be stressful to be a journalist, especially with all of the deadlines, the politicians or the concurrence. An online journalist needs to be even faster, when writing and sharing news, because the website should be the first spreading certain information. To talk about the job of web journalist we met Louis-Paul Eggen, employee at the DH.be, a Belgian medium.

Eggen is a web journalist at DH.be and also La Libre Belgique since 2017. He is a graduate of the University of Liège and also a sports enthusiast. He describes himself like a specialist of Formula One and the Red Devils, which is the Belgian national football team.

The job of web journalist isn’t really easy, describes Louis-Paul Eggen: »There is a lot of stress in this job because you always keep one eye on the news and follow the news feed all of the time. It’s easier when we have cold news because we take time to write; we add reactions from Twitter and also create a design for the article.« 

Foto: osebni arhiv

Always being focused on the news, always watching other media websites, he explains how he manages his stress with the unexpected event: »I always tell myself: just don’t stress, be precise on what you write or say and check the information maybe three times before the publication.« He adds that »at times like that, they need to be reactive and focus on the concurrence – they need to be the first web site that shares the information on the website, on Facebook, on Twitter etc.« Despite that Eggen prefers to take a minute or two to make sure that the information is correct and real.  

Rotating schedule

For Louis-Paulthe time schedule doesn’t play a role in the stress factor because he has a special schedule. The schedule of a journalist is in general totally different from other jobs. »We don’t have the same timetable each week,« explains Louis-Paul. It’s a rotating timetable. Every day there are seven journalists at the media for DH.be: »There are two at the morning between 6.30 and 12.30. They put articles from the newspaper on the website, publish the exclusivity, watch the other media.«

»Just don’t stress, be precise on what you write or say and check the information maybe three times before the publication.«

Louis-Paul Eggen

As he said, these two journalists are replaced by two others from 12.30 until 18.30 and do the same job. During the day, there is one other journalist: »He arrives at 9.00 and leaves at 17.00 he works on his own content and proposes new articles.« And to conclude the day, there are two others who work from 18.00 until the midnight. They prepare the news for the next day and finish publishing the articles. »At DH.be there is always someone who works,« adds Louis-Paul.

At this moment there is a lot of rotation within the reporters and journalists at DH.be because there are a lot of new ones. They need to learn about the medium and its work practice. Louis-Paul describes how they form the new journalists: »Firstly there is a test for two days, and if the candidate is eager and good for us, we begin with the formation of the journalist. We show how we work here, with which program, the data and the website in general.«

He confides that the people working at web desk are really young and there is a good ambiance with people. »For the new ones it could be difficult to enter in a new medium but here it’s not, we always help the new journalist,« he claims.

A popular media but not a tabloid

When it comes to the trainees the DH.be wants to see the capacity and the skills that each student has: »That’s why we don’t give the news feed to the trainees. Also it’s not really interesting for us. We want to know how the student writes an article, his or hers capacity of managing the stress and having an opinion about the topics they propose and work on.«

Another reason why the trainees don’t get only the news feed is that the DH.be isn’t the New York Times but it’s not The Sun either. It’s somewhere between. It is a popular medium.

»The most complicated is the digital transition, so how to write for the web. We need to think about it every day because we don’t want to be eaten by other media.«

Louis-Paul Eggen

If you compare it to the media in France it’s like a regional media, in Germany it’s like The Bild. »Now we are more serious than The Mirror or The Sun,« said Louis-Paul Eggen. There are a lot of differences if you compare the DH.be to the tabloids – the design of the web page is different, there are no big sensational titles that only catch readers and they are careful which photographs they publish.

»Between the journalists of the web and newspaper desk is always discussion. The guys from the newspaper understand that the web is important for them and also for the medium.« In the landscape of Belgian French speaker media, the DH.be is often the first one who publishes certain information. »The reason why we are so successful and have high quality is exchange of opinions or visions between people, the good atmosphere and for sure the teamwork. It’s really important to have this in a media to be a good one,« finishes the Belgian journalist.

Still going independent

In Belgium, like normally in the other countries the press is independent. It’s written in the constitution of the country. So the biggest motive of the press is to be independent. That’s why, it’s not usual to see the government, a minister or a leader of a company interfere with the media. Some people don’t respect this but the press doesn’t care.

Louis-Paul says: »Sometimes we receive a letter or an email from politicians or a member of a football club and they ask to change a title because it’s not true, but that’s all. There is no pressure on web, maybe there is more pressure around the journalist’s newspaper.« The people who read The DH.be aren’t really interested in the European news so maybe that’s why there is no influence from the European Parliament.

A job that is not always easy

When we asked Eggen what problem is the DH.be facing right now, the response was direct and clear: »The most complicated is the digital transition, so how to write for the web. We need to think about it every day because we don’t want to be eaten by other media.« And the reality of the field is here. IPM (the media group of DH) proposed to buy another French speaker media L’Avenir. So the spirit of the concurrence is present in their journalistic landscape.

»Between the journalists of the web and newspaper desk is always discussion. The guys from the newspaper understand that the web is important for them and also for the medium.«

Louis-Paul Eggen

There is also more work than before because DH.be created a new web page consisted of 100% sports. »We promised a lot with this new page and we need to be good for the people, we must satisfy them,« tells the young journalist.

Belgium is facing a lot of troubles at this time – a corruption case in the Belgian football championship, yellow vest movement known as »Gilets Jaunes«, problem between Wallonia and Flanders and many other political and governmental problems. We can say that the country knows a crisis and in this case every journalist must be careful with every piece of information. Louis- Paul Eggen says: »For the politics we have a lot of political journalists who are ready to share articles or a piece of information with us. But for hot news we need to use the conditional because we don’t know all the information.« 

Foto: Unsplash

He warns: »For example, my boss told me to make a push with the application because there is something in London with a metro station. I didn’t want to, but someone did, and at the end it turned out it was nothing. We don’t need to create fear or sensationalism in the population.«

Towards 100% medium?

Everywhere in Belgium we can see the new journalism which is known as »the Web First«. Louis-Paul confirms: »This occurrence will only accelerate in 2019. Articles will be published one day before on the website and then one day later in the paper version.«

Lots of people think the news in paper form will disappear out of journalism soon. Almost every medium got a web edition and some of them are giving up the newspaper – also one of the French medium France Soir. In Belgium the RTBF, public television and radio for French speakers, publishes a lot of articles on the web page. Not only newspaper, also television and radio see the future in the web.

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