The man who did not switch away from ‘The Owl of Minerva’ led NOS in hardened climate

NOS editor-in-chief Marcel Gelauff watched over the most trusted news brand in the Netherlands for eleven years. The boss of the Journaal will stop working on 1 September. Under his leadership, NOS News grew into an organization that is present on all conceivable platforms, but at the same time made itself small in the streets by removing the NOS logos from vans after persistent threats and intimidation.

In a hardened social climate, the publicly funded news medium became an easy target in corona times. His resignation has “absolutely nothing to do with” that roughening, he appt. According to a statement on the NOS site, he will enjoy “new freedom”, now that he turns 65 this year. It was “extremely honorable and meaningful. But also demanding, vulnerable, and at times lonely.”

In the criticism that it NOS News according to Gelauff, it is soon forgotten that the Journal is bound by the laws of television (short) and the social mission (impartial). “It’s just a summary news section for a wide audience,” Gelauff told last year NRC† And yet, ask if it matters who the NOS boss is, and he says: yes.

He cited an example: Thierry Baudet’s victory speech after the victory in the FVD’s provincial elections in 2019. Gelauff broke on the spot with the habit of broadcasting parts of speeches from the various political leaders. The news value of a foreman’s speech that came out of relative nowhere seemed obvious to him. While the director wanted to switch to GroenLinks, also a winner, Gelauff warned not to switch away from Baudet. Thus, almost the entire ‘Owl of Minerva speech’ was broadcast.

The resentment against the NOS coalesced in the establishment of an opinion channel of NOS critic Arnold Karskens that serves the radical right. At the beginning of this year his Ongehoord Nederland joined the public system.

Most trusted news brand

At the same time, NOS is consistently the most trusted news brand, with a 7.4 on a scale of 1 to 10 in the News Monitor of the Media Authority for years. RTL Nieuws follows half a point away.

The NOS works together with news hour, which is currently led by Pieter Klein. With the (commercial) RTL Nieuws, he revealed the largest political-social scandal of recent years, the Allowances affair, in collaboration with Fidelity† Last year, the Rutte III cabinet fell for this.

The NOS, the recently retired political pointer Ron Fresen states in his book Eight years Eight hours; Life in the Binnenhof, has underestimated how tens of thousands of parents were wrongly branded here as childcare fraudsters. Partly because it’s ungrateful to run after someone else’s firsts, Fresen says, but “perhaps also because we couldn’t imagine it could happen on this scale.” Like many in the media and politics, he added.

Harm Taselaar, recently retired after more than twenty years as editor-in-chief of the competing RTL Nieuws, states that Gelauff leaves behind a “very good, journalism-wide organization” with the NOS. “Under his reign, the NOS has done great things, especially in the digital field.” On TV, the NOS has remained “a little too conservative”, he thinks: “Not bad, not at all, but the Journaal could have been swinging a bit more.”

Also read this interview with Gelauff (2021): ‘It is not our job to keep society together’

self-mockery

The NOS presenters were standing and walking anchor. Another, more subtle change that Gelauff liked to see in reports was: take the question into account. “Sometimes you think as a viewer: why doesn’t he ask that question? While it may have been asked, but yielded the same answer three times, so we won’t stop there, that minute is up. But by broadcasting the question more often, you can show that there are more perspectives, different perspectives.” But, he said with some self-mockery, “that is not a major change of course of the entire NOS editorial team”.

The most frightening hour in his editorship was when the NOS editors were taken hostage in 2015 by a student with a – as it turned out – gas pistol. Tarik Z. demanded airtime in the Journaal and was directed to another studio by an employee. While the building was being evacuated, Ron Fresen observed the broadcast from The Hague. Since this incident, the security at the Media Park in Hilversum has been increased. The closest we came to actually claiming airtime was activist farmers demonstrating at the Mediapark in 2019.

Gelauff, who went out to start the conversation, later disputed that he was under pressure to cover in the Journal their complaint about what they perceived to be biased coverage of the industry. “Farming in front of the door, that makes you better. In the sense that it encourages us to ask ourselves what we’re missing out on,” he said. “That is different from doing this because you are framed as a state broadcaster. We are a public broadcaster, that is really something different.”

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