Rennie Rijpma (49) will be the new editor-in-chief of the . from July 1th General Newspaper. The successor of Hans Nijenhuis speaks.
At the table in her home in Amsterdam, Rennie Rijpma goes back four decades in her memory when she points out the places from then. ,,There”, she says, ,,my father sat, ,,here I sat and between us the radio was on an empty seat. It was always on and we served it. We were always busy at home with news.”
It was in the Frisian village of Oentsjerk, municipality of Tytsjerksteradiel, where she grew up on the farm as the youngest of five children with two sisters and two brothers. Her father kept cows. “In the middle of the green. A socially engaged family. It was not surprising that I went to study social work. Working with people and doing something for someone else, that’s deep inside me,” she says.
It is the common thread in my life: interested as widely as possible
With Rennie Rijpma it gets General Newspaper in addition to the first female editor-in-chief, she is also involved and modern. As head of digital (since 2015) and deputy editor-in-chief (since 2017) she was responsible for the development of the digitization of the AD, which now has 3.5 million daily visitors to the site. Moreover, a true journalist who stood with his ‘paws’ in the field for years.
Started as a freelance court reporter for the ANP in Friesland (‘My first piece was about the election fraud on Vlieland’), she became a city reporter in Amsterdam in 1999, where she also went to live. “I could do everything there. From the Concertgebouw’s program presentation to a taxi war and the fire in the RoXY. It is the common thread in my life: interested as widely as possible.”
The latter characteristic marked her career, which took a new turn at the ANP with managerial positions. She set up an entertainment editorial team, became head of the interior and not forgotten: during the 1997 Elfstedentocht she met her husband – also a journalist – with whom she has two sons (18 and 14).
The text continues after the photo.
Rijpma developed as a connector with decisiveness. Even when she joined the AD came in as chief of news editors. ,,Making a newspaper, I had never done that before. With a rhythm, a mix of items, telling stories. Super interesting and educational. It makes it easier to lead if you know what is going on in the field, because you have experienced it yourself. I remember from my time in Friesland Meindert Tjoelker, one of the first victims in the fight against senseless violence. I was looking for the family and went to call all Tjoelkers who were in the telephone book. Some got angry. Until I got the family on the phone myself. They were glad I called. It is about genuine interest, respect and of course everyone has the right to say no.”
Did the ANP become interested in digital?
Rijpma: ,,That’s certainly where my online drive comes from. The ANP is a news agency where you are involved with news 24/7. The Internet already existed, but not yet in serious news form. I remember well that I was shown around the editorial office at the Marten Meesweg at the AD, where we were then. The newspapers and online editors were miles apart. Online was on a different floor and even moved to Amsterdam. I thought that was crazy, but I still had my hands full with the newspaper at the time.”
People are increasingly realizing that journalism has a price. It’s been a search, but we’re getting better at it
Three years later, the digital chief position followed.
,,I was not asked that, I wanted it myself. Making the newspaper I had – in all modesty – at my fingertips. But my personal news clock is ticking faster than once every 24 hours. My goal was to get as many people as possible. There wasn’t really a plan. So a digital strategy had to be developed. I included the editors in this. Explained why we focus on online, video and later audio.”
There was skepticism about digitization.
“That’s right, there were a lot of questions. How are we going to make money with it? Premium, so pay for online content – did De Volkskrant and Loyalty yes, but would it be with the AD to work?”
And? Does it work?
“Now it is. People are increasingly realizing that journalism has a price. It has been a quest, but we are getting better at it.”
You have worked in the lee until now. In this position you will have to step outside regularly.
“It’s part of it and I don’t mind taking a step forward if necessary. It also applies that I am the first female editor-in-chief of the AD. In its 75-year history, there have always been women who have played an important role. In fact, this brand wouldn’t have been as big without women, but they were more in the background and in the minority. With me, the women come forward more, something that was already set in motion with Angela de Jong. These pioneering roles are good for the image and the ambitions that we radiate. That young women will soon also be able to think: hey, I can also become a journalist or editor-in-chief. In addition, during my application procedure, I indicated that I would like to see more women represented in the newspaper and on the site. News is too often dominated by men, but there are many women who have something to say. Our readership is about fifty-fifty male-female. If you want people to take our brand to heart, both those men and women need to see some recognition.”
The text continues after the photo.
How finite is the newspaper?
“We have a unique starting position. As a national news brand, we are deeply rooted in much of the country with our regional editors and partnerships with seven regional titles. This means that we can always get and bring the news close by. If a row of trees falls in Leersum, other media will set out, but we are already there. The newspaper will be read less in the coming years, but I am convinced that we should keep it up as long as possible. If only because we owe it to our readers. At the same time, the survival of print depends on the success of digital.”
Can you explain that?
“Now the newspaper’s subscriber base is a very important source of income, but if you look at the advertising market, digital has become increasingly important. There is no company that wants to advertise in print only. To some extent this also applies to readers. We have more and more digital subscribers and that will have to get even better to keep making that paper newspaper.”
What other goals do you set yourself?
Readers embrace the newspaper like a family friend. We have to achieve that with digital as well. People shouldn’t just drop by, but keep coming back. I see it like this: for example, you have WhatsApp so you know how your family and friends are doing and you also have it AD that tells what is happening in the world and your environment.”
The AD is close to my heart. I want to make this brand future-proof
You are known as a workaholic. To what extent can that be a pitfall?
“I get more stress from being off than on, but I realize that sometimes I have to distance myself. To make time for family and friends. In addition, I exercise three times a week, in the open air. Running and boot camp. Then I can clear my head.”
You have been approached quite often for top positions in recent years. Why never bite?
“I still have a job to do here. It AD is close to my heart. I want to make this brand future-proof.”
Why do you want this so badly?
“Because I don’t think anyone else could do it better than me. I know the editors, the journalistic work, the newspaper, the site and I know who our audience is.”
Your father died at 62, when you were only 24 years old. Maybe a silly question, but have you thought about him lately?
,,When the bullet was through the church, I immediately thought of him. Too bad he didn’t get to experience this. And honestly, even though he’s not physically there anymore, to me he’s still there. And then I hear him say that he really liked it.”
Free unlimited access to Showbytes? Which can!
Log in or create an account and don’t miss out on any of the stars.