Q&A Recap with US Correspondent Karlijn van Houwelingen
Living in New York, with an office in the middle of Brooklyn, while traveling the country for your job – for many American Studies students this must sound like a dream. Exploring the United States, finding stories, and explaining America to others: for freelance journalist and U.S. correspondent Karlijn van Houwelingen this is not a dream, but reality. Therefore, the CareerCie thought it would be great to have Karlijn as a guest speaker for our first event. Although many joined the event, we wanted to recap our conversation and introduce you to Karlijn in the ASH as well, for those that could not attend or just wanted to explore her story again.
Karlijn was never planning on becoming a correspondent in the U.S. She studied Journalism, and after that she did a Master in Sociology. As she states, she wasn’t an America fanatic or had tremendous interest in America at all. As a student of journalism, she started an internship at a regional section of the AD. After the internship, she stayed there whilst doing her Masters’ degree. This immediately is her first tip for students who are looking to get into the field of journalism. She found that doing an internship, and doing it well, can be extremely helpful for getting into the field. Even if it is not yet as a correspondent or on the topic you are interested in, getting field experience is very helpful. She also stated that many regional radio, tv, or other journalistic platforms are often looking for interns or people who want to work part time besides their study.
While Karlijn was still working for the AD, the U.S. correspondent at that time moved jobs and thus a job opening became available. Karlijn immediately raised her hand and, as a young journalist, got the job. While this was partly due to luck, she also claims that her work up until then, and her proactive attitude, made her seize this opportunity. Whereas as American Studies students we are well equipped with historical, political, and cultural knowledge on the U.S., Karlijn had to do some studying. At our Q&A event Karlijn believed that having this knowledge is an advantage, but she also believes that once you’re working as a correspondent, wherever that might be, you learn as you tell the stories. For us it might be easier, but still, as a correspondent, you will come across stories that you have to dive into, broadening your knowledge about the country. One other tip she had was that even though we are already advanced in English, Spanish can be very helpful when telling stories as a journalist in the U.S.
During the event, Karlijn also spoke about the changes in journalism. In the Netherlands, but also in the United States, there are groups of people who distance themselves from what they call ‘mainstream media.’ Karlijn, while traveling through the U.S., was lucky to not directly encounter hate against her as a journalist, but she did notice that it happened to American journalists. She believes that, since she works with pen and paper, and comes from the Netherlands, people are often less hostile towards her, or not hostile at all. The fact that she comes from Europe to tell American stories is something that breaks the ice when interviewing people as well. Another aspect of changing journalism that Karlijn mentioned was that many journalists, especially correspondents, often don’t have contracts but work as freelancers. Meaning that on the one hand they have a lot of freedom, but on the other hand they don’t have a steady income. For Karlijn personally, working for the AD means that when she writes one story, this can be used in many outlets falling under the DGP, a company owning many newspapers in the Netherlands and Belgium. Her one story can then get published in many newspapers, while she only receives payment once. Though a bit frustrating, for Karlijn, all of this is worth it since she enjoys her job and freedom as a correspondent, and working for the AD provides her a steady client as a freelancer.
In the end, Karlijn is still very excited to tell the Dutch newspaper readers about the U.S. She encouraged us to pursue our dreams and start to gain experience as much as we could.