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Creativity is key as a journalist

Mathieu Lonbois

studied Language and Literature (Dutch, Ancient Greek, English) at KU Leuven. He works as a journalist for the news service of the Flemish Radio and Television Broadcasting Organization (VRT NWS). He divides his time between current affairs programs and a daily news podcast. His tasks include pitching; preparing and conducting interviews; making reports and audio montages; and writing articles. Besides that, he is also editor-in-chief of a theater magazine.

Mathieu highlights the importance of information and knowledge management skills: “As a journalist, it is your job to gather reliable knowledge and information, which you then need to transfer to your target audience in a clear and structured way. Whether it concerns a politically tricky topic such as the Flemish nitrogen policy, or the mess of cultural subsidies, it is important that you first understand what it is about, to be able to present it smoothly to your readers or listeners. First gathering knowledge and then analyzing, summarizing and communicating this knowledge is something I certainly learned in my Humanities education.”

Mathieu also noticed the added value of his project management skills in his current job. This is because deadlines are part and parcel of journalistic work. He gives some examples: “At the news office, we have very strict, daily deadlines. For the podcast, we deliver a final product every day at four o'clock. And for my other job as editor-in-chief I have a three-monthly deadline by which the magazine must be finished.” Mathieu emphasizes that efficiency, independence, and discipline are therefore crucial in his work. This organization discipline is something that he mastered during his studies: “I remember well how we had to independently process large chunks of literature for Ancient Greek. In the morning I would go to the library with a clear goal in mind: to reach a certain page of Herodotus that day. If you left that literature until the last minute, you would never be ready for the exam.”

Lastly, Mathieu adds that being creative and being able to come up with new and innovative ideas is something he uses daily. This is because creativity is key while making a podcast or documentary. Journalists need to direct and present their journalistic findings in an interesting way. Additionally, journalistic pitching also requires you to have an eye for striking stories or to look for a creative approach. He was able to develop that artistic side well within his education, with literature analysis, but also thanks to extra-curricular activities. For example, he has participated in the plays of his student association both on stage and in the director's chair. He would like to encourage all students: “Don't just limit yourself to academic excellence during your student days, but also look for those extra challenges. Studying is much more than just sitting behind your books.”


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