My task was to investigate whether individuals or organisations in Europe who engage in journalistic work are a threat to the profession. I would produce eight stories from eight European countries in a period of eight weeks.

Thanks to donations from around 40 individuals and organisations on the Dutch crowdfunding platform Nieuwspost, I set out with €2500 in July. In two months' time I rushed across Ireland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Italy and Spain by plane, train, boat, bus, cycle and foot. I woke up at 4.30 in the morning for an interview at 5 and travelled for hours in the hope to secure an interview. I spent many nights in shabby hostel rooms, glued to my backpack filled with my bare essentials. I tried to understand my interviewees with hand gestures, illustrations and sketches whenever I faced a language barrier.

But I loved it. I highly enjoyed listening to the stories of eight exceptional news producers.

Summer reporter at work
Image: Gemma van der Kamp

The trip has taught me that journalism is interaction, but mostly listening. Despite all the warnings from my tutors and fellow journalists to never be unprepared for an interview, I often was unprepared. In Ukraine I travelled for a day in wobbly buses to meet up with "a plumber called Serge who works as an investigative journalist". My contact who had arranged the interview for me only knew his first name and did not have much information about his work. I took the risk and it turned out to be the best story I have written.

I also learned the enormous value of face to face interviews and taking the time to get to know your interviewee. I have been inspired by the remarkable news producers who all were ambitious in the journalistic mission to inform the general public about what is going on in the world around them. By being the vehicle for their stories, I felt I could contribute to their mission.

the non-journalistic news producers should be seen as a huge source of inspiration and not as a threatGemma van der Kamp, freelance journalist
In Western Europe I talked to news producers with a keen sense for innovation in a changing news environment. I spoke to the Briton Alex Johnson, who earns a third of his living by scribbling about garden sheds. In the Netherlands, I wrote a story about a Dutch parliamentary news service ran by lobbyists who curated packages of specialised news for their clients.

In Eastern Europe, however, the theme completely turned on its head. I met journalists who had quit their jobs in professional journalism to continue their work undercover and unpaid in order to expose abuses in society. Such as the Ukrainian plumber Serge Dibrov, who carries out investigations into criminality and medical corruption during the evening and at night. The examples I found in Bulgaria Ukraine, Italy and Spain forced me to redefine the question: "Are non-journalist who engage in journalism the last hope for the profession?" The non-journalistic news makers in these countries seemed to be among the few who dare to put their safety and secure income at risk to tell the truth.

After two months and eight stories I came to a conclusion. Are those individuals and organisations that engage in journalism a threat to the profession? In every example I met, journalistic training and experience seem to still be very important. This shows that there are many more opportunities for journalists to use their skills in less obvious fields than they may have thought. And that the non-journalistic news producers, should be seen as a huge source of inspiration and not as a threat.

Freelance journalist and anthropologist Gemma van der Kamp embarked on the summer reporter trip after finishing her Masters in International Journalism at City University in London. She holds a Master degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Amsterdam.

Gemma shares more accounts of those she met along her journey in articles written for the European Journalism Centre magazine, this one covers the first half of her trip. 

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