A journalist with a European view

Dutch journalist Coen van de Ven is an investigative reporter for the magazine “De Groene Amsterdammer.”

written by

Finn Müller

Twenty-four years after a massacre, Coen van de Ven travelled to Vukovar, Croatia, to tell the story of a town that had been shaken by war.

In 1991, 200 people were killed there during the conflict between Croatia and Serbia. The Dutch journalist, still a student at that time, wanted to report on the aftermath of the civil war. It was the first English-written story he sold as a freelance journalist.

Van de Ven was born in 1992 in Zaandam in the Netherlands.

“For me becoming a journalist was sort of a logic thing,” van de Ven said.

At the beginning of his career, van de Ven already had a profound interest in writing and reading during his school years. Encouraged by good marks for writing exercises he founded a student newspaper and reported on the happenings of the daily school life.

After graduating van de Ven wanted to pursue and professionalize his passion for writing and storytelling. He began his bachelor’s degree in journalism at the Hogeschool Utrecht in 2010. Next to learning the basics for the job as a journalist, he could participate in a special collaboration program with the Danish School of Media and Journalism.

In an international group of students at the school, van de Ven focused for the first time on foreign corresponding. With the chance to travel around Europe and report from different countries. He learned to admire the benefits of cross-border collaboration in journalism.

“A lot of our media landscapes are organized with a national focus,” van de Ven said, “However, a European view on things can be so much more interesting.”

Van de Ven wanted to get as much practical experience as possible to go along with his theoretic journalism education. By the end of his first year at the Hogeschool, he got his first journalism job at a website for financial news called “Fondsnieuws.”

“Although it was extremely boring, I could learn a lot there,” van de Ven said while smirking.

Van de Ven’s biggest passions are long reports based on elaborate investigative research.

“I want to write stories not with 200, but with thousands of words,” Van de Ven said.

In order to do that he started to pitch his stories to various media outlets. That also required a lot of perseverance. Sometimes he pitched a story 10 to 12 times before it was published.

“Sometimes it failed, sometimes it happened,” van de Ven said.

On the one hand, it could be a frustrating experience. But on the other hand, he could get his articles and thereby himself some public attention.

That hands-on mentality also led to a flying visit in entrepreneurship. In 2012 he left the journalism school in Utrecht for a year to found the company “NewPaper” together with some fellow students. They wanted to combine the work of programmers, designers and journalists to sell compelling stories to other media. They saw potential in attractively presenting multimedia reports and offered them to publishers with a huge outreach. But that field did not prove itself as promising as they had hoped.

“After one year we realized that we are not so good in entrepreneurship and that we would be better off as journalists,” van de Ven said.

With that experience still in mind he went back to school to finish his bachelor’s degree.

Van de Ven continued to work as a free journalist. Among others he could sell his stories to Vrij Nederland, De Morgen, RTL Z and to Al Jazeera. He reported from Srebrenica, Athens, Peking and Kaliningrad. He defined himself as an investigative political journalist who covers a variety of topics. He also wrote reports on the aftermath of the Yugoslav Wars, on the refugee crisis in Greece and on the tensions between Russia and Western Europe.

To further collaborate on cross-border researches he co-founded the journalism collective “The Caravan’s Journal.” It was a platform for young journalists in Europe that provides a framework for foreign corresponding.

The approach was to produce stories from a multinational perspective and then sell them to different countries. Next to his efforts as a free journalist, van de Ven also decided to do his master’s in political theory in Edinburgh.

After finishing his studies and some years as freelancer he got a full-time job at the Dutch magazine “De Groene Amsterdammer” in December 2018. It is a magazine with which he has a lot of personal history. Van de Ven said that he read it as teenager and always wanted to write for it. As a free journalist, the magazine had already his most important publisher. He describes it as an intellectual and progressive magazine that combines literature, philosophy and investigative journalism.

Now, he is working on an investigation into antisemitism online with research into the Dutch public debate and the influence of technology. He plans a big story for this summer in collaboration with the people from the Caravan’s journal. The goal is to report on how the European borders are opening up again.

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A critical public

By Finn Müller

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