I was born in 1953 on the bottom of the former Zuyderzee, the reclaimed land known as Noordoostpolder. This tabula rasa country at the time was meant to be the first man-made future-oriented showcase and multicultural society of the Netherlands. Maybe that remarkable environment triggered the interest in the relations between people's personal history and the external influences, threats and possibilities. In my youth few people looked back, maybe there was to much horizon around to go after. So, if people had to cope with each other, keeping the eye on the common horizon always kept the atmosphere in the positive. So why did I decide to study modern history at the university of Amsterdam and to become a historian and journalist? God only knows. Maybe because I felt that there’s more than meets the eye. (I still do). Anyway, I never regretted it, not even for one second.
During the eighties journalism alternated with the library. First the foreign desk at the Haagsche Courant. After a couple of years I decid d to write a dissertation. The topic: the big political controversy in The Twenties in The Netherlands about rearmament. The question of peace and war never left me since.
From 1984 to 1990 I worked as a foreign editor, later as a research journalist, at the national daily NRC Handelsblad, and travelled extensively in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Before and during the German Revolution in 1989/90 I was based as a correspondent in East Berlin. Exciting times, not in the least because in those years I got two daughters and a son.
Since 1990 I occupy the chair of History of Society, Media and Culture at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. In addition to that I am the director of the post-graduate Institute of Newspaper Journalism. On the kitchen wall in my Amsterdam home hangs a signboard with a text on it that sums up my key experiences during all my travels in the past and present, at home and abroad: 'Le people se trouve partout'. The problem of course is how to create mechanisms in society that generate the best in people to the benefit for society as a whole. That's why I like my chair so much: it is about society, politics and culture, and about the role media plays in the interaction between all these segments of our world(s).
As we all know, some things in life are quite simple. Or, so we prefer to think. But we have created a society that is just as comfortable as it is complex. So, a lot of problems concerning communication are more complicated than people think. The heart of the matter often is the always changing context of interrelated factors of society, ideas and culture. That is the politics of media. If we want to search for clues for pinpointing causes and effects, trends and directions we sometimes better take one step back (or up). Whether you take a loupe to take a closer look at an urgent problem, or climb a ladder to obtain the view of the eagle's eye. In both ways, you will find a new horizon, only then you will find new and creative solutions.
A bit of knowledge of our modern history, the present complex context and our own deeper motives will help us finding solutions for urgent problems.